The six-day Vanderbilt Knockout Teams, the premier event of the Spring North American Bridge Championships, was completed last Sunday in Buffalo, N.Y. In a contest riddled with upsets, the eighth seeded team of Edwin Kantar, Alan Sontag, John Mohan and Roger Bates came away the winners.
My team (Bill Root, Edgar Kaplan and Norman Kay) fell by the wayside early, thanks in part to todays deal. As South I opened one club and Root, North, responded one heart. East overcalled one spade, I passed, and West muddled the auction with a tactical one-notrump bid (more about this later). North cue-bid spades, I showed my secondary heart support, and North raised clubs. Despite my minimum opening, the honor locations were fine, so I bid four diamonds to show the ace. West made a lead-directing double, and North bid the slam.
Six clubs was a good contract, basically requiring a successful finesse in either hearts or diamonds. Wests double of four diamonds placed that king offside, but the heart finesse could be taken either way. It was like the childrens game of Whose got the button? with the outcome of the match in the balance.
I knew that Wests notrump bid was phony he had no club stopper and there were too many spades outstanding. In expert circles this is a common tactic with a good trump fit and poor playing strength. Therefore, the heart queen could not be located from the bidding.
Hoping to obtain clues about the distribution, I played: spade ruff, club to king, spade ruff, club to queen, spade ruff. Spades appeared to be five-five; so when East turned up with the singleton club, he was more likely to have heart length especially considering Wests double of four diamonds. By playing hearts now (before diamonds) there was also a slim chance that if I lost to queen-nine doubleton, West would be endplayed. Accordingly, I won the heart ace and led low to the 10. Darn!
© 1988 Richard Pavlicek