Life Masters Pairs '95 Answers

I seem to have very good luck with pickup partners. Five minutes before the Life Master Pairs in San Diego, I got fixed up with someone I'd never met before and we ended up 19th. We were in the event until the very end; we sat 13th going into the last session and could have won if we got all our decisions right. Since this was a new partnership, the methods for all these decisions are 2/1 100% game forcing, 15-17 notrumps, 1M-3m are Bergen raises, but everything else is a strong jump shift. Most modern treatments, but very few express discussions. Leads are Parity vs. suits (highish from even, lowest from odd), 4th best from an honor vs. NT (10xxx or better), standard honor leads (but A from AK except the normal exceptions) and signals.

After 5 sessions, you find that partner is sound and imaginative, but prone to occasional flights of fancy. He found this wonderful sequence. He held  S:Q10xxx H:--- D:J10xx C:Q10xx. White on red, LHO opened 1H:. I bid 3H:, asking for a stop and showing a solid suit. His RHO passed and he bid 3NT in tempo. LHO bid 4C:, I passed, RHO bid 4H: and he bid 4NT! LHO bid 5H: and I doubled, so he pulled to 6D:. LHO continued to 6H:, I passed this time and he bid 7D:, got doubled and went down one for a near top. 6H: is cold. If they lead the wrong ace, we make 7D:. Nicely done, pard.

The final is on a 38 top. The dealership and vulnerability will skip around because we were E/W and because some of the problems are partner's and some are opponent's.

Round 1:
I don't recognize our opponents. The field will be surprisingly soft today; I'm not sure why. On the first board, declarer takes an all-out line and makes an overtrick in a normal 4H: contract. It's not clear if the line is sensible; it risks the contract and has a somewhat lower expectancy than a safer line, but has the merit of working this time. 11 matchpoints.

On the second board, you hold  S:Q3 H:AK876 D:765 C:KQ10. You open 1H:, LHO overcalls 2D: and partner bids 2S:, standard, not game forcing. RHO passes. What do you bid?

I bid 3C:. Partner bid 3H:, I bid 3S: and partner closed proceedings with 4H:. I admit that with his hand, I would have bid more and probably reached the five-level and stopped, finding that we were off the H:Q and an ace. 4H: is enough on the actual hands, but now there's a play problem:

S: AK974
H: J92
D: 9
C: A763
S: Q3
H: AK876
D: 765
C: KQ10

3S:Pass4H:All Pass

T1: D:A-9-4-6
T2: D:Q-H:2-8-5
What's your plan?

The technical line in the trump suit is pretty close to a tie between running the Jack and cashing the high honors. There's some complication in that LHO will be able to tap the dummy again should he get in. Given that it appears as if he has six diamonds, playing him for shortness in hearts is reasonable. This is corroborated by the diamond continuation at trick two, which suggests a 1-4 trump break. I ran the H:J, which picked up stiff ten, making six.

I got this one right for 27+ matchpoints and an average round. Getting it wrong is worth another 11.

Round 2:
We play Deas-Palmer. The first board is a totally flat 3NT making 4, but they inexplicably miss a cold game on the second hand, which makes five. 16+ on the first hand and 30 on the second. Only a half a board above average so far, but things are about to get better.

Round 3:
Vs. the Truscotts. They are playing relay precision (surprise). On the first board, he plays 3NT and goes down one when we defend reasonably and we get 29+. On the second one, this defensive "problem" arises. Dorothy is playing it.

S: A54
H: J1076
D: 1083
C: AJ6
S: 63
H: KQ832
D: K2
C: 5432

Pass3S:All Pass

T1: H:9-6(?)-3-A
T2: S:K-2-4-3
T3: C:Q-K-A-2
T4: C:J-3-9-7
T5: C:6-4-S:T-8
T6: S:7-8-A-6
T7: S:5-H:2-Q-9
T8: H:5-D:9-J-Q
T9: C:5-S:J-C:T-D:3
T10: D:4-6-T-K
T11: ?

OK, this isn't really a problem. You just need to be careful not to cash another heart because it squeezes partner out of the beer. I led a diamond and partner claimed. I beat him to the beer claim.

I got this right and got 26 only matchpoints for +100. It turns out that the aggressive 2H: was bad, since many others reached game.

Two good scores leave us a full board over average. Not enough yet.

Round 4:
Opponents are Steve Onderwyzer and someone I don't recognize.

You hold  S:A5 H:A6 D:98 C:AKQ10876. Partner opens 1S:. 3C: would be a spade raise and 2C: is game forcing. What is your plan?

I don't know what's best. I wanted to get into a cue-bidding auction; probably this is best:


That ought to show solid clubs and demand cue bids. Not being sure that partner would read it as such, I bid 2C: and then 3C:. Pard showed 5-5 in the majors and I just key-carded in hearts. He showed two with. 5NT asked for specific kings. He showed the D:K and I bid 7NT. It was on finding the C:J when he had  S:10xxxx H:KQxxx D:AK C:x. Most of the matchpoints for 2220.

On the second board, Steve has to play this trump suit:

Being matchpoints and being in a normal contract, the goal is to play the suit for the most tricks. Things are complicated by the fact that my partner led the trump 2 through the AQ95 at trick one. He has no good reason to do so. What's the right line?
Without the lead, the right play is to finesse the Q and then play the Ace. With the lead, who knows? Steve took the normal line and blew to stiff king.

I got the first one right and Steve got the second one wrong. Two tops for us. (34 and 34+.) Things are looking up.

Round 5:
I don't know these guys, either. On the first board, they bid to 3H: on their nine-card fit after we bid 2S: on our 8-carder. No one is vulnerable, but we are booked for down 1 and they can't make 3H:. LTT is off by two, primarily because neither side has the high cards in their long suits. For their getting it wrong we get 31 matchpoints.

On the second hand, you (partner) hold:

 S:9 H:AKQ D:AQ6 C:965432

Favorable, dealer. What do you open and what do you plan to rebid?

I think it is clear to open 1NT (15-17). What will you rebid if you open 1C: and partner bids anything? We got lucky because partner opened 1C: and I responded 2D:, strong. He raised and after finding out about the S:A and C:AK, bid 7D:, which is the only making slam vs. my  S:AJx H:Jxx D:KJxxx C:AK. Good job, pard.

That's two grands in the first ten boards. Wow.

We are successful on this hand for 36+. Now we are cruising. Round 6: Vs. Manfield-Woolsey. Kit is on my right. Partner opens 1S: and I put him in game with:

S: KQ4
H: 2
D: AJ653
C: J1032
S: A6532
H: A8765
D: K10
C: 9

South passes and we quickly bid 1S:-2D:; 2H:-2S:; 3H:-4S:. The opening lead is the C:8-x-A-9. H:9 comes back. Plan the play.

I'm not sure. Most lines lead to ten tricks, though. I'm taking votes on the best line.

Partner made this for an average score. On the next board, I held  S:AKJ108653 H:Q75 D:--- C:Q8. Partner opens a strong notrump as dealer. Your methods are 4-way transfers and "Aces Scientific" but no real discussion. Partner will probably be on the same wavelength. At this point, what's your plan?

Having read Kit's book on Matchpoints just a few days before this event, I took his advice and bashed, hoping that I wouldn't get the killing lead, if any: 6S:. Kit gnashed his teeth, but didn't double with his H:AK. I got a diamond lead, bought  S:xx H:Jxx D:AKQJx C:AJx and claimed at trick 2 when spades were not 3-0. I guess the right technical action is to transfer to spades and then bid 4D: splinter, but I was not confident of our partnership and to win a big pair event, one has to make some impossible contracts, so bashing out 6S: is a sensible pairs action, if not "right" when trying to come out from 13th place. Moreover, it worked.

I got a top on the board and suddenly things are looking very good. It turns out that we are leading the event now.

Round 7:
Opponents are unknowns. You hold

 S:Q9 H:9643 D:KJ8 C:K1065.

Opponents are silent and the auction begins: 1S:-1NT*; 2H:. What action do you take?

I bid 3H:. Passing is reasonable, since the minor suit kings are of dubious value. Partner can still have an 18-count, though, and 4H: could easily be cold. I bid 3H: and partner went to game with  S:AJxxx H:AJ10x D:x C:A87. With the D:AQ offside, the S:K off, and the C:J9x off and a club lead, partner went down. On most other leads, he'll make it, especially a trump lead. He might make it anyway; most of the field did. What is the best line? (I don't know the answer.)

On the second board, you hold

 S:K765 H:AJ D:AQ104 C:QJ8.

You deal and open a strong notrump. Pass, pass, 2H: showing hearts and a minor. You double for takeout and everyone passes. What's your opening lead?

I think the D:A is right. If RHO has diamonds and hearts, you are getting a top regardless. If he has clubs and hearts, starting the tap is probably right and diamonds are the right place. Safer, however, is to lead spades, since partner rates to have three of them, probably to an honor. Either wins and gets them for a lot. The C:Q lets the contract make. Guess what we found. Zero.

We got each of these wrong. Disaster strikes. 5+ and 0. Our momentum is broken.

Round 8:
We skip two little old ladies and play Grant Baze and a bad client. You hold:

 S:KJ7 H:72 D:J72 C:A9853.

Both white, Grant deals and opens 3H:. Partner doubles and the client bids 4D:. What's your plan?

I think it's right to double 4D: to show some values. They are clearly on their way to 4H:, so you want to set up a force, getting partner to bid a black suit if that suits him or to double if he prefers that. 4H: goes for 800. We passed them out in 4H: for 200 and a 10. Oops. We can make 3NT; the other hand is  S:Axxx H:QJx D:Axx C:KQ10 and ought probably to bid 3NT the first time, but we had a chance at a 38.

On the second board, you hold:

 S:107 H:AKJ8642 D:A4 C:A6


5H:, of course. Partner passed with S:Kxx (*), but the ace is onside and six rolls. Unlucky. Nice lead-direct, Grant.

(*) unless he chooses to bid 5NT, which is easy to raise.

We get them both "wrong" and get a 10 and a 20. More missed opportunities. We are fading.

Round 9:
Andy Robson is on my right; Hordis is on my left. First board, you hold  S:J2 H:KQ632 D:K43 C:K64.


I think it is clear to bid 3H:, denying them a game try *, since with 8 and 8, one of us will have to bid 3H: and there's no reason to wait for partner to do it. But what ought to be the difference between passing and bidding 3H: in what appears to be a forcing auction? I think that the person who bids 3H: is responsible for deciding what to do to 3S:. Here, this hand knows. Pass. So it ought to bid 3H:.

(* they don't play max overcall doubles.)

On the second board, you hold  S:A10 H:7 D:QJ10743 C:AK104.


I bid 3C:, figuring that they were going to bid 3S: and I wanted a club lead. Wrong. I got to play 3D: and incurred a trump lead to hold me to 3. 2S: is down two, so passing (or doubling???) is the right choice. 8 and 8 was yet another LTT failure. Again, each side was missing all the high trumps, which is why the LTT failure occurred.

Not too many matchpoints are at stake here; averages are pretty much all that's available.

We are probably out of contention for the event now, but we still have a good shot at the top ten. Fortunately, I've never seen any of our remaining opponents before; they look pretty soft.

Round 10:
On the first board, the opponents get to a trivial 6NT and have to play A1043 vs. K9865 for four tricks to make. Declarer safety plays it and blows a trick to a 2-2 split. He gets the 7 he deserves, since this is matchpoints, not IMPs. It's been awhile since we have had a good result.

On the second board, you hold:  S:J98752 H:42 D:3 C:A943. RHO opens a strong notrump and you bid 2S:, spades and a minor, at unfavorable. LHO bids 3NT and it's your lead.

Lead clubs. LHO is obviously well-prepared for a spade lead. It's only worth an overtrick, but it's worth 20 MPs to get this one right. Not us.

Chip Martel wanders by and asks how we are doing. I say, "up and down, but mostly up" and show him our scorecard. It seems as if we are doing ok at this point; Chip kibitzes the next hand.

Round 11:
You hold  S:QJ8 H:AQ54 D:54 C:QJ63. Your agreement about opening bids is "most 12s, some 10s." I open 1C: and partner bids 2S: strong. Now what?

I knew the right thing was to bid 2NT to slow down the auction and to get the hand played from this side, protecting the H:AQ, but I felt obliged to support spades. After 3S:, we were doomed, since we could get no more than 650. 3NT makes five; spades makes six from this side. The weak notrumpers win this board. There were several strong notrump wins, so this was just a payback.

I get it wrong in a sense and right in a sense. My instinct told me to do the right thing, but I rejected it. Too bad. 11.

Second board I deal and open 2S: on  S:Q98542 H:96 D:KQ8 C:97 at both white. They reach a normal 4H: and need to play S:K10 vs. S:J7 for a trick. Partner did not lead the suit, so declarer ought to get it right, but he played me for the Ace and we get a near top: 35+. We are maybe recovering a little. Good lead, pard.

Round 12:
I pick up  S:Q975 H:K63 D:K73 C:A42 in 2nd chair. My hand is sorted, so when RHO passes, it's obvious that this hand was passed out at the previous table. With four spades, I probably want to open it given the unauthorized information, but our style is "most 12s" and this cannot possibly qualify. I pass and so does everyone else. Partner has a 3244 11-count, so if I open, we shall probably get too high. If I opened 1S:, however, he'll bid 1NT and I can pass for a great score. If I open 1C:, he'll bid 1D: and for us to go plus, I have to pass. Yeah, right. Without unauthorized information, neither option would cross my mind. Shrug. Cheating is too hard.

The pass out is worth 15+.

On the next board, they have a big double fit and stop in 3S:. Partner shifts to the D:9 at trick two from 932 and declarer thinks he's about to suffer an overruff, which promotes a trump trick for my 10932. Unfortunately, declarer then plays hearts (AJ962 vs. Q953) for no losers, picking up partner's K104, to return us to average. Many are in game, so we get a 14 for -140. Rats.

Last round:
We are in 10th place now and first is out of reach, Levin-Wolfson blowing away the field. Two good results can get us up to second, since the pack is very tightly bunched at this point.

I pick up in 2nd with both white  S:Q H:AK1054 D:AKQJ8 C:J7. This is a clear 1H: opener, but I make a very dubious action and open 2C:. LHO overcalls 2S: and partner doubles. We agreed (wow!) that this shows something in spades, but no other aces or kings. What action do you take?

I passed, which I think is right. 4H: may or may not make and we might get them 500 anyway. The danger is that they have a hidden club fit. In fact, they have a nine-card club fit and can get out for 300. That's still 14 MPs, since 5C:x only goes for 300, also. We had a defensive lapse and let them make 2S:x for -470 and another zero. Oops. 4H:+4 is 22; most were making five for 27 or so. If I were to open 1H:, partner would find a preemptive raise and they might well misdefend, so I get credit for most of the loss.

On the second board, we have a major defensive problem. (favorable vul.)

S: A874
H: QJ85
D: 2
C: AJ87
S: J952
H: A103
D: KQ874
C: Q

All Pass

Partner leads the H:7. Declarer plays the 5 from dummy. Plan the defense.

S: A874
H: QJ85
D: 2
C: AJ87
S: J952
H: A103
D: KQ874
C: Q
S: K10x
H: K4
D: A109x
C: K109x
You must play the H:3. Partner has either H:97xx or H:7xxx. In the latter case, it doesn't matter what you do. Declarer, also, doesn't know which partner has and has possibly guessed wrong at T1. In fact, he did. The second key play is that you must play a diamond honor when they are led from dummy. If you don't, declarer can insert the 10 from A109x and partner's jack is forced. That sets up a spade-diamond squeeze against you for an overtrick. Doing both things right gets you -600 and 36 MPs. Doing one gets a 20. Doing neither gets a 4. Guess what.

We got everything wrong in this round for a zero and a 4. That dropped us to 19th. Getting both hands right gets us up to 8th. Too bad. It was still a pretty good showing, all things considered. Partner did many very good things. Still, 19th in the LMs with a random partner is a pretty good result for each of us; this turns out to have been partner's first national event ever.

If you get all the decisions right in this set, you can end up winning the event. Miss a few and you might be second. Choke as badly as we did and you might not stay in the top 20. Good luck!

You need 200 MPs more than we had to win the event, 150 to come in second. There are about 210 MPs available to you, so if you get everything right, you win the LM pairs. If you get most of them right, you are second.
Jeff Goldsmith,, Feb. 12, 1996