K 10 8 7 3 2
A K 10 9
K 9 7 5 4 3
6 5 2
J 10 2
A Q 10 7 5
Q J 4
J 8 6 4 3
Q J 4 3
Balancing the opponents into game is one thing; I myself do it twice a week. But balancing one’s partner into Sticks and Wheels is one of the finer points that separate the EXPERT from the Small Time Club Player™.
Gee is West on today’s deal. N/S have a cold club slam on 24 points and an eight-card fit, but it is the rare pair that will reach even the good 5C contract (which essentially requires 3-2 splits in both minors), let alone the low percentage slam (as above, plus the SK onside).
Our N/S is not one of those rare pairs. North opens 1D third hand, East inserts a fairly grungy 1H vulnerable overcall, and the hand is passed back to North, who reopens with 2C. East passes, and although one can argue for 3C or even 2NT by South (3NT makes on the layout), or 1NT in the first place, South passes as well and leaves matters in our hero’s hands.
It would be grievously unjust to call Gee’s 2H balance a zero percent bid. If East holds Ax AQJxx xxxx Kx, just possible on the auction, and hearts are exactly 4-2, 2H makes and 2C makes as well. There are a few other possible East hands that break even as long as you’re undoubled, where 2H is down 1 and 2C makes. Then there are still other possible East hands, like the actual one.
Against 2H doubled South opens a low trump, won by East in dummy with the 9. It’s probably best to play a diamond immediately, not that it matters on the layout, but declarer instead cashes the HK, getting the trump news, and leads a diamond. South wins and shifts to clubs. When the smoke clears the defenders make two diamonds, two clubs and two spades and three trump for — say it with me brethren! — Sticks and Wheels.