I pick up the South hand and don’t even have to sort it to know that I’m not going to bid on Board 13 on Friday, Jan. 6, at the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, Ont.
Spades: K-7-5; Hearts: Q-6-5-4; Diamonds: 9-7-5; Clubs: 9-8-4.
Plus we’re vulnerable. Partner Selina Volpatti is the dealer. She opens the bidding 1 Heart. Sitting East is Ineke Bezuven and I forget whether she bid. I think not. If she bid, I’d overcall 2 Hearts, just to be competitive. Selina and I are aggressive, if nothing else. Ineke’s husband, John, bids 2 Clubs. Selina goes 2 Diamonds. After Ineke bids 2 Spades, I take a deep breath mentally and put down the 3 Hearts card. John doubles and the double holds.
Ineke leads the Ace of Spades and Selina artfully accumulates nine tricks, losing only the four outstanding Aces. According to the hand record, North-South should take only eight tricks. East-West, meanwhile, should make 4 Spades or 4 Clubs.
Turns out that it’s a case of North-South holding all the secondary honors with every King offside. Here’s North:
Spades: Q-3; Hearts: K-J-7-3-2; Diamonds: K-Q-J-10; Clubs: K-7
Spades: A-10-8-4-2; Hearts: 9; Diamonds: 8-6-3-2; Clubs: J-10-2.
Spades: J-9-6; Hearts: A-10-8; Diamonds: A-4; Clubs: A-Q-6-5-3.
Our 730 match point reward is unmatched. Next best North-Souths bid 1 or 2 Hearts and make overtricks for 140. Another bids 2 Hearts and makes it exactly. Two other 3 Heart bidders fall one trick short, but aren’t doubled.
Surprisingly, only five East-Wests find a Spade contract (one was in 4 Clubs) and only two of them bid game. Topmost is 4 Spades doubled and made for 790 match points. Only one other E-W bid 4 Spades. The E-W winners, Diane Gordon and Andrew Russell get to play it at 2 Spades. They come to our table after the Bezuyens and we trade near-top boards with them.
On Board 15, Andrew bids the makeable 5 Clubs and we deprive them of an overtrick. Only one other E-W goes all the way to 5 Clubs and they make an overtrick.
On Board 16, discretion wins the day for us. Diane opens a Diamond. Selina, with a 6 HCP hand, passes. Andrew, with 5 HCP, bids his four-card Spade suit. I have 17 HCP, but my best suits are Diamonds and Spades. I pass.
Diane goes to 1 No Trump. I still have nothing to say and that turns out to be just fine. I get to run off a lot of Diamond tricks and Diane’s down two vulnerable. Better than if we bid the 2 NT that’s makeable in our direction. Turns out two other E-Ws meet the same fate.
Spades: 5-2; Hearts: K-10-2; Diamonds: Q-9-5-4-2; Clubs: A-K-6.
Spades: A-J-9; Hearts: J-9-8-5; Diamonds: 6; Clubs: 10-9-8-4-2.
Spades: K-7-6-4; Hearts: 7-4-3; Diamonds: 7-3; Clubs: Q-7-5-3.
Spades: Q-10-8-3; Hearts: A-Q-6; Diamonds: A-K-J-10-8; Clubs: J.