These 27 deals were played in a special match on OKbridge called the Goldway Challenge in August, 1997. World champions Bobby Goldman and Paul Soloway were North-South, and my son Rich and I were East-West. The deals were selected by moderator Tony Reuss from those played on OKbridge that week. Scoring was by IMPs.
I have added comments about the bidding and play, as well as other interesting sidelights. Hopefully, this will provide instructive reading for anyone wishing to improve his or her bridge game. The match was exciting with lots of action some would say too much.
My 2 was Astro (spades + another suit) and 4 was Texas (transfer to hearts). I tried again with 4 (cant pass with 6-6) and South used Roman key-card Blackwood. Despite finding his side had all the key cards, Paul could not bid the grand slam with confidence he knew the distribution would be wild from the bidding and was probably concerned about J-x-x-x on his left.
Bobby claimed 13 tricks as soon as the dummy came down. Alas, there was little field protection so we lost IMPs even to the small slam.
Richs 1 NT was forcing and 3 was a mild invitation with a better hand he would bid 2 as an artificial club raise. Nonetheless, I liked my hand since Rich was likely to have a stiff heart, which would mean great playing potential. I tried 3 , essentially showing a stopper, though I had no intentions of playing in 3 NT. Rich took a conservative view with the wasted K and no trump honor, so we played 4 .
Eleven tricks were pretty routine, as dummys long diamond eventually established and South could make only one trump trick. Curiously, an original trump lead would have held me to 10 tricks as soon as I play a heart, South can win and clear trumps. Perhaps Paul would have found this lead against 5 , so maybe it was fortunate we didnt get too pushy.
The Goldman-Soloway system was great here; 2 NT was a game force, and 3 showed diamonds (like a transfer). This allowed Bobby to bid 3 and then 4 to complete his 5-6 pattern and reach the perfect spot. I really thought we were going to beat this, looking at three likely trump tricks, but thats all we had coming.
When Rich showed out on the second trump Bobby claimed 10 tricks.
Pauls redouble was a bit tainted no doubt for tactical reasons to quell our competition and it didnt work as he hoped. Bobbys 4 bid seems pretty clear-cut, yet the final contract was virtually hopeless.
Bobby wisely settled for down one, going up with the A at Trick 4, since he knew I would not be giving him an opportunity to make an impossible contract.
Preempts at favorable vulnerability are sometimes abominable, as my 3 bid here. But, thats bridge. Against a lesser pair this might have done some good, but Paul stretched slightly to bid game and Bobby judged to bid 5 when Rich sacrificed in 5 . Actually, we were dancing for -800 as North can get a club ruff against 5 by shedding a club on the third diamond.
In the defense, I was wondering why Rich didnt try to cash a second club since no other trick seemed possible, though I guess he figured I would have led a singleton club if I had one. Very true.
Pauls 2 was reverse Drury and 2 showed a normal opening bid. Souths values suggested being conservative so Paul bid a nonforcing 2 and Bobby had no reason to continue, especially nonvulnerable when the odds are less attractive for close games. This time everything was friendly, and my trump lead made it even easier.
There was little to the play; just ruff the diamond, draw trumps, and play hearts. Fortunately for us, some pairs got to game so we won IMPs. Switch the E-W hands, however, and wed have lost IMPs since 4 would fail.
Goldman-Soloway brought out their system gadget again (see Board 3) where 2 NT is forcing. This time, however, South opted to sign off in 3 NT which I think denies two spades in their method so North was not concerned about repeating his spades. 3 NT is far from a claimer, but surely the best game contract.
Paul was destined to succeed with spades 3-3, but he didnt know it. Note his careful diamond return at Trick 4 to pursue an extra chance as well as break up our communication in case the spades did not break. Holding him to nine tricks was the best we could do.
The IMP loss here suggests that quite a few pairs failed in game, no doubt in 4 . After the likely 9 or Q lead, a reasonable play is to unblock the A-Q before clearing trumps (hoping for the A onside), but its curtains when East ruffs.
Bobby had a momentary connection problem, so Tony Reuss took his place as North for one deal. The passed-hand shape double allowed N-S to compete. Im sure Paul had thoughts of passing the double for penalty, but he wisely bid 2 on a good day he might get a piece of 3 , but we were having none of that with our flat distributions.
Not a great exhibit here. The first trick was routine our leads show count (low from odd, 3rd best from even) and Rich could easily have Q-x-x so I could not know to withhold the K. At Trick 10 and 11 Rich erred in leading diamonds, establishing Souths Q while he still had a trump left. (If Rich leads a club at either trick, declarer must fail.) Also, it is curious that declarer can succeed legitimately by leading clubs (say, at Trick 4 instead of the 8). I suspect Rich and Paul both lost concentration as a result of the connection problem Bobby was having.
Bobby reconnected and returned to the North seat, and we all thanked Tony for filling in. Paul doubled my 1 NT opening, then 2 NT by Rich was a transfer (showing clubs). I was a little surprised to buy this so cheap; I would have competed to 4 , but I guess it wouldnt matter because that makes easily. Pauls double seems strange to me (as does Bobbys silence after the double) so maybe I missed an alert.
An easy 10 tricks; nothing to the play. Winning IMPs here seems generous, but I suppose there were diehards in notrump (a heart lead kills) and a few might have pushed bid 5 .
Fast and furious! Bobbys 2 NT was unusual (minors) and it looked right to raise to 4 with my hand. Paul competed to 5 and Rich made a slam try by cue-bidding 5 . On the bidding this was almost surely a void, but my spot cards rated to come into play if North held the A-K he would surely lead an honor, and if South held one of the honors it would ruff out quickly. So I bid the slam.
It is apparent that 6 would fail after any lead but a diamond, but its hard to fault Bobby for the lead. I would surely do the same, as I imagine would any expert. Too bad. We got lucky. It was routine for Rich to ruff the lead, draw trumps, and establish the rest of the diamonds with a loser-on-loser play which is what I had pictured from the bidding.
Pauls 1 NT was forcing and 2 NT invited game (usually 11-12 HCP but South upgraded his hand with Q-x in spades). Bobby wisely passed 2 NT was already too high with the foul layout.
My club shift at Trick 5 (instead of running hearts) was safe since I had everything under control and Rich had to have a high club honor (else South would have 13 HCP). Perhaps declarer should now cash out for down two, but there was still a chance and he tried the diamond finesse. Curtains. We had all the rest.
My opening 4 bid may look crazy, but similar to Board 33-5 it was based on the vulnerability. There is no perfect defense to preempts, as is evidenced here. South had a tough problem: Should he go quietly and perhaps miss a vulnerable game? Or should be risk a double and hope for the best? Bobby chose the latter. The double in their methods is takeout oriented so Bobby had high hopes for spades. Oops. This time Paul bid clubs, and Rich knew what to do next. This is the kind of mild disaster all experts occasionally suffer; you wont be a winner by bidding too safe.
I was delighted to have a singleton to lead, and Paul wisely won the ace (if he ducks we get another trick). Rich grabbed the first trump lead and cashed the K. Just in case I had no more trumps (my 10 was a scary card) Rich cashed the A (he knew this would cash since my 2 discard showed count) and then gave me my ruff. Rich still had to get another trump trick.
Another competitive auction. At matchpoints I think Bobby would double 3 which goes down two (maybe three), but the risk is too great at IMPs. Pauls push to 4 was aggressive, though he was unlucky to catch his partner with K-J-x-x in spades.
Bobby did the best he could. The contract was doomed with the 4-1 trump break, and he timed the play well to go down only one. A trump return by me at Trick 3 might be a better defense, but it would not help (he would win and lead a low spade). It seems declarer can cope with any defense to win 9 tricks.
In our methods 2 was fourth suit forcing promising at least game invitational values, then my jump to 3 created a game force. Rich had an awkward third bid. Rather than bid 4 to show his 5-5 pattern he used excellent judgment to rebid his strong heart suit (as if it were six cards) which got us to the best contract.
I could have won 11 tricks after Souths generous K shift, but I did not know the J was falling (nor the J). Therefore, it was routine to duck the club to allow extra chances. Note the play to Trick 4, which created an extra entry to dummy and allowed me to succeed against any distribution by driving out the A. All this was wasted of course as the cards lie.
The weak 2 bid is less popular these days with all the gadgets like multi, though its still a favorite in my camp. I considered passing at the vulnerability, but the 10-9 influenced me to bid. Bobby doubled for takeout, Rich raised, and Paul cue-bid to force Bobby to pick a major suit. Despite the unfavorable vulnerability, we were still in bounds at 3 as it can be set only one trick and they have an easy game.
I played too quickly here at Trick 1. The K seemed safe to cater to the slim chance that Rich had underled the ace, but it created a problem later I should have foreseen. When I won the K, my best hope to defeat the contract was to find Rich with the A, so I made that switch. Fortunately, this only cost an overtrick if South had held K-x-x-(x) in clubs it might have cost the contract. In retrospect Rich would have no reason to underlead the A, so I should play the 9; then I could cash the K before leading my spade.
Bobby just drew trumps and claimed 11 tricks after asking who held the K.
Pauls jump raise to 3 was weak a popular treatment in competition. The effect was actually beneficial to us, as I was endplayed into bidding 4 (what else?). Perhaps we would have gotten there on our own, but the auction made it easier.
The contract was unbeatable, and I actually made two overtricks when Bobby elected to lead the A and continue. At IMPs, of course, the value of overtricks is low, and he could see that a spade shift at Trick 2 would not beat the contract.
We were cold for 3 NT, but with Rich a passed hand it seemed unwise to act with my hand over Pauls weak two-bid in fact, even if Rich had not passed, any action is dubious. So Paul was left undisturbed in his not-so-glamorous contract. Rich certainly couldnt bid.
Paul played cleverly, refusing the diamond finesse. When Rich led the Q at Trick 5, I overtook (Rich would not know to lead a heart because North might have the A) since I wanted to cash all our tricks to avoid being endplayed later. When Rich won the K perhaps he should lead a spade (Paul might finesse the queen as his best chance), but he exited with the K. Paul then ducked a spade to Rich, finessed the spade return to me and could win the rest no matter what we did.
Now it was their turn for preemptive tactics, and the auction was stuffed in my face at 5 . I felt we were being talked out of a major-suit contract, but the only sensible thing I could do was to double. Just as well. We would certainly fail in 5 , and even 4 is in danger. It looks like an easy 10 tricks, but it comes down to an ending in clubs; leading a club to the king (playing North for A-J-x-x on an endplay) is a better chance than finessing South for the J.
There wasnt much to the play just normal technique in the heart suit to establish a trick. Note that Bobby would not alter his plan after I went up with the K on the first heart lead. A weaker player might be fooled into thinking I held A-K and put up the queen.
A beautiful auction by us! If only we had the cards to back it up. Over 1 , I might have bid only 2 ; but it seemed sensible to show the nature of my hand (and if Rich insisted on spades, my jack might be just as useful as two small). When Rich next bid 3 (natural GF) my hand improved a lot so I cue-bid 4 . Richs 4 NT was natural in our methods, and I cue-bid again on the way to 5 . This seemed safe since my hand was limited and I could hardly have a more suitable hand for 6 . I think Rich overstepped his values with 5 , but lets just call it unlucky
the ace of trumps was offside.
Paul thought briefly about finessing the 10 (the right play against most contracts) but made no mistake in winning the ace. Note that if he lets me win the K, I can succeed run the J, and then play clubs to reach dummy. Not against these guys.
Bobby and Paul bid well to stop in 4 on this misfit deal, on which many pairs got overboard. It is easy for an inexperienced player to get carried away with the North hand Blackwood lovers take note. The horrendous spade break makes even 5 too high.
After my normal diamond lead the old unbid suit caper Paul had no problem coping with the 5-0 trump break. A variety of lines of play would succeed, but his was probably the best. Rich was helpless to make more than two trump tricks in the ending because of the key spot cards (8-7-6) held by North. Well done.
Planning to reverse with my hand is an overbid after the expected 1 response, so I bid diamonds first, then clubs. This worked out well. When Rich competed to 3 , I felt my hand was worth a game try so I cue-bid 3 (ambiguous in meaning) and Rich bravely jumped to game.
There wasnt too much to the play as long as trumps split. Souths takeout double tipped off how to play clubs. Also note that ruffing dummys fourth heart gave me an extra chance. If North held K-x of clubs, he would be endplayed when he won it and have to give me a ruff and discard. The only time I would fail is if South doubled 1 with two small clubs.
Oops. Rich was off on his own little venture here. His 3 systemically showed a strong one-suited hand (often to reach 3 NT with a running minor suit) but holding the other major suit its supposed to be based on shortness in the bid major. Hence his normal action is to double and follow with a heart bid (3 seems right). This indiscretion walked right into Pauls parlor with a lucrative double.
The defense was flawless as usual. Note Bobbys careful club plays at tricks 4 and 7 to prevent Paul from becoming endplayed. Justice was served.
Goldman-Soloway stopped safely in 2 clearly the best contract. No doubt Paul loves to redouble (compare Board 33-4) but this time he had it.
Not much to the play. A heart shift was pretty obvious when I won the A, and Rich just cashed his aces before the rats got at them. This defense would have felt a lot better against 4 .
Rich was clever here, passing an unattractive 13 points. When Pauls weak two-bid was passed around, Rich then balanced with 3 , the perfect spot. Curiously, if Rich opened the bidding, it would be almost impossible to reach 3 if we competed against 2 it would likely be 2 which must fail.
Paul found the best lead with the 10 and perhaps should continue when he won the K; but he opted to attack dummys diamond entry. This simplified the play, but Rich could always succeed on his own if he guessed the Q.
Disaster! We were fixed by our system here; 2 was puppet Stayman, and 2 was forced unless Rich had a 5 card major. My 3 showed exactly 4-4 in the majors, which allowed Bobby to double for a diamond lead. Perhaps Rich should bid his strong 3 card spade suit, but he passed it around. We didnt have any specific agreements in this territory, and neither of my majors seemed meaty enough to bid (having already shown 4-4) so I retreated to 3 NT. Not pretty.
Of course, we lost the first 5 tricks. Well, theres some good news and some bad news. The good news is that almost everyone else was in the same contract. The bad news is they all made it! North would never lead a diamond in a million years, without the double.
When my weak two-bid was passed around, Paul balanced with a double. Bobbys 2 NT was Lebensohl a relay to 3 then 3 suggested a weak hand. (With a better hand Bobby would bid 3 immediately over the double.) Its good for us they know their system, since 3 NT by South amazingly cant be beaten.
We play suit preference on the opening lead if third hand has shown 5+ cards, so my 9 asked Rich to shift to a spade. After that there was nothing Bobby could do.
Rich apparently got disconnected or lost in cyberspace, so I got to partner Tony on this last deal. Bobby upgraded his 14 points (or liked the vulnerability) to open 1 NT, and Tony opted to simply bid his spade suit. I would bid 2 Astro (spades + another suit) with the West hand, and strangely might end right there when East senses the misfit and passes. Either contract makes easily.
We had too many tickets for the defense to do anything; in fact, it takes an opening trump lead to stop declarer from winning 9 tricks. Bobbys shift to the K may look generous, but it seems necessary to lead trumps to stop a club ruff or two, and it did not cost. Only a low spade shift would give declarer 10 tricks.
© 1997 Richard Pavlicek