Defense

Jun 272003
 

Today is the first anniversary of the Gee Chronicles. Just think, exactly a year since the Maestro underled an AKQ allowing Jx to score for the winning trick in a hopeless contract. How long ago it all seems, and yet how much we all have learned! It seems an opportune time to review some of the more memorable lessons of the Master, which pseudo-Gerard has been kind enough to supply.

 

1. Promote partnership amity. We sometimes forget the importance of a harmonious partnership to bridge success. Gee never does.

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: H2

opp 1
S A K 2
H Q 6 5
D A 7 2
C 9 5 3 2
poor sap
S Q 8 7 5
H A 7 4 3
D 9 5
C Q J 8
[W - E] Maestro
S J 10 6
H K J 9 8 2
D 10 8
C A K 4
opp 2
S 9 4 3
H 10
D K Q J 6 4 3
C 10 7 6

North/South, through bidding that it will be merciful to let the sands of time dissolve, reach a 3NT contract that would be excellent but for the fact that it’s off eight top tricks. Gee opens the heart deuce, his partner wins the heart ace, and…shifts to the club queen! When Gee allows this to hold his partner thinks better of clubs and shifts again, this time to spades. North gratefully wins this and begins to run the diamonds. Gee discards a spade, then the 8 of hearts, then the 9 of hearts, and then, the coup de grace, the king of hearts, conceding the contract and an overtrick into the bargain.

Why, you ask? For the sake of the partnership. The best way to console your partner after he makes two earth-shattering errors in one hand is to make an even bigger one yourself.

 

2. Avoid Sticks and Wheels at all costs. At all costs:

E/W Vul
MPs
Dealer: South
Lead: S5

rubbernecker
S A J 6 3
H J 4 2
D 6 5 2
C 10 7 3
lucky dog 1
S Q 10 8 7 2
H 10 9 6 5 3
D A 10 9
C
[W - E] lucky dog 2
S K 9 5 4
H A 8 7
D Q 4
C A Q J 8
Maestro
S
H K Q
D K J 8 7 3
C K 9 6 5 4 2
West

2 C
Pass
Pass

North

Pass
Pass
Pass

East

4 S
Dbl

South
1 C
5 D
Pass

The maestro, shrewdly realizing that the spade game makes double-dummy, elects to take the unilateral save in 5D. He wins the spade ace, and it looks for all the world like down 5 and Sticks and Wheels. But the maestro executes the winner-on-loser, discarding the heart king and playing another spade, tossing the heart queen. This opens both majors for the defense to tap him, and when the smoke clears he is down that all-important extra trick, for 1400.

Lemma: Always bid your suits in length order, longest first.

 

3. Attend to the Law of Total Tricks.

Both Vul
MPs
Dealer: North
Lead: SQ

thing 1
S K 8 7 5 4
H A 8 7 4
D 9
C A Q 5
why me?
S A 3 2
H K Q 5 2
D 5 4 3 2
C K 2
[W - E] Maestro
S 9 6
H 10 6 3
D A K J 8
C J 8 7 3
thing 2
S Q J 10
H J 9
D Q 10 7 6
C 10 9 6 4
West

Dbl
Pass

North
1 S
3 S
Pass
East
Pass
4 D
Pass
South
2 S
Dbl
Pass

Gee, expecting at least a nine-card fit from his opponents — what business has his partner got doubling with three spades anyway? — takes the vulnerable save against a part-score with four diamonds, doubled with alacrity by T2, scarcely able to believe his good fortune. As it happens good defense puts even 3S down, but how could anyone be expected to know that, or expect good defense? Four diamonds goes for 800 on ordinary declarer play, but under Gee’s sure touch the defense manages two trump, a spade, a heart, and three clubs for 1100.

That it is called the Law of Total Tricks, meaning it applies to both sides, is a more advanced lesson that we may get to in the Chronicles’ second year. The attentive reader may have noted that this hand violates Lesson 2, which itself points to another important rule: sometimes you just have to know when to break the rules.

 

4. Cover an Honor with an Honor.

Both Vul
MPs
Dealer: North
Lead: CA

tyro
S A J
H 8 5 3
D Q 2
C A K J 10 6 5
fire 1
S Q 10
H A K J 4 2
D A 9 4 3
C Q 7
[W - E] fire 2
S 9 6 5 4 3
H 9 7 6
D K 10 7 5
C 8
Maestro
S K 8 7 2
H Q 10
D J 8 6
C 9 4 3 2
West

1 H
3 D
Pass

North

2 C
Pass
Pass

East

2 H
4 H

South
Pass
3 C
Pass

North leads the club ace and shifts to a trump. Declarer wins and plays a low spade to North, who leads another trump. Declarer wins, ruffs a club, and plays another spade. North wins again and returns a club, ruffed by declarer. Low diamond to the king, diamond 10 off the board, and here we are, with the hand nearly an open book. Declarer is 2-5-4-2. If he has only the diamond queen he’s always down. If he has the ace-queen he always makes. If has the ace alone, well, any ordinary player can beat the contract. What is more important is to impress on one’s partner the significance of always covering an honor with an honor.

 

5. Always Lead Fourth Best.

Both Vul
MPs
Dealer: North
Lead: H8

grasshopper
S Q 8 6 5
H K Q 6 5
D 4
C 10 9 8 6
mach 1
S J 10 6 2
H A 7 3
D J 9 7 6 5
C 4
[W - E] mach 2
S A K 9
H 4 2
D A K
C K Q J 7 5 3
Maestro
S 7 4
H J 10 9 8
D Q 10 8 3 2
C A 2
West
Pass
3 C
3NT
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2NT
3 D
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

East-West arrive at a reasonable but doomed 3NT contract. Gee leads the eight of hearts which is ducked in dummy and won by North’s queen. The club six is returned, to the king and South’s ace. Gee plays a second club which establishes the third and final defensive trick.

Of course this result could have been avoided had North simply returned his partner’s suit at trick two. What North failed to appreciate was Gee’s adherence to the fundamentals of the game, including the “Lead your fourth highest” rule. A simple application of the rule of eleven would have led to the correct defense. Declarer cannot hold a card higher than the eight, therefore Gee must hold the jack, 10, and 9.

Apr 082003
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: SK

teeta
S A J 8 6
H K 7 5 2
D A 4 2
C 10 6
fun1
S 10 9 7 3
H A 10 9 8 3
D 9
C K 7 4
[W - E] Maestro
S K 5
H Q 6
D K 10 8 3
C A J 9 8 2
lfisher
S Q 4 2
H J 4
D Q J 7 6 5
C Q 5 3
West
Pass
Dbl
North
1 D
Pass
East
2 C
Pass
South
2 D
Pass

 

Gee’s brilliant bidding and declarer play sometimes overshadow his equally brilliant defense. Even the Chronicles have not given it the attention it deserves.

Today, then, features the maestro in an unaccustomed supporting role, in which he manages to steal the spotlight nonetheless. We reach 2DX after what might be considered a normal auction. West’s negative double is reasonable, but it puts the maestro in a tough spot. 3C and 2H both make, but 200 figures to be an excellent score on a part-score hand, and I can’t severely fault the gambling pass.

Gee here might have been well advised to use the rule of thumb I myself often employ on opening lead: pull the card closest to thumb. Instead he begins the defense with one of the two cards that let the hand make, the spade king. (The trump king also does the job.) Declarer wins the spade ace and plays the trump ace and another trump.

Gee ducks the second trump — winning doesn’t help — as West discards a heart. Declarer now leads a heart from dummy, ducked by West, and wins the heart king. Now it’s all over: another trump from hand will restrict the trump losers to one, plus a heart and a three clubs. Making two.

But no! Declarer, apparently losing the trump count, plays two more rounds of spades. Gee ruffs in on the third round, and has only to cash his master trump to prevent the club ruff and beat the contract. He cashes the heart queen, which his partner shrewdly elects not to overtake. Strike one. He cashes the club ace, on which his partner discourages. Strike two. And he continues with the club jack, covered by the queen and king. Strike three: West is forced to concede the club ruff for the eighth trick. Batter out.

Feb 212003
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: HA

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
jdonn
S 7 5 3
H A J 10 7 5 2
D K 5 3
C 2
sheu
S K 8 6
H K Q 6 3
D Q 7 4
C 10 9 6
[W - E] lornic
S A Q 9
H 8 4
D A 9
C Q J 8 5 4 3
Maestro
S J 10 4 2
H 9
D J 10 8 6 2
C A K 7
West

3NT

North
2 D
Pass
East
3 C
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

 

Too lazy to write a full hand today, but a small squib to whet the appetite, say, a four-trick* defensive compression play.

Gee’s partner, once again, is the fortunate Josh Donn. His 2D opener is multi, showing either a major suit weak two-bid or a strong balanced hand. East makes a pretty usual 3C overcall, and West bids an aggressive notrump game.

Josh leads the heart ace, Gee dropping the 9, and continues the suit as Gee discards a club and declarer wins the king. East plays a club; Gee wins the king and surveys the territory. What to play, what to play? Once the clubs are established declarer will have at least nine tricks: four clubs, two hearts (being marked with the queen of hearts on the play, not to mention the bidding), a diamond, and two spades. No hearts left, so that’s out. Spade into the AQ doesn’t look too promising. Ummm…

Cash the other club. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

*Only a two-trick compression if declarer ducks in diamonds, playing North for Kx or Kxx, and blocks the suit.

Feb 192003
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: S7

jdonn
S 7 5 3
H K 2
D 10 9 8 7 6 3
C 6 3
OrumCenk
S K J 10 6 4
H 6 4
D J 4
C A 8 7 4
[W - E] LorNic
S A Q 8
H A 10 7 3
D Q
C K Q J 10 9
Maestro
S 9 2
H Q J 9 8 5
D A K 5 2
C 5 2
West

Pass
3 S
Pass
Dbl
Pass

North

2 S
3NT
4 C
5 D
Pass

East

3 C
Dbl
Dbl
6 S

South
2 H
3 D
Pass
4 S
Pass

 

The Gee hand that fails to provide a useful lesson is rare. Every so often, however, a Gee hand teaches so many lessons, on so many levels, that there is nothing to do but — well, to publish it, so all the world can profit.

Today finds Gee yoked again to one of his favorite partners, junior wizard Josh Donn. The auction is a marvel. Gee’s 2H shows a subopener with five hearts and an unspecified four-card minor. (Apt pupils will note that this makes North the captain.) Josh figures East/West are cold for at least a spade game, and possibly a slam, and tries a 2S psyche.

Even at the vulnerability N/S don’t figure to get hurt too badly in 4D, so when Josh hears Gee bid diamonds he figures he can go to town. First he psyches 3NT over West’s 3S, and then runs to 4C when doubled, intending to run to 4D after that is doubled. Naturally East doubles again, and the maestro, forgetting who is captain, steps in with 4S! After all, his partner has shown a monster, and he does have 2 in support. When this is doubled Josh is forced to run to 5D, which goes for 800 against 450. East, probably unwisely, spurns the sure profit and takes a shot at 6S. It would be cold if West had a heart stiff and three diamonds instead of two of each, or on any lead but a heart.

Josh of course leads the heart king, and declarer wins the ace and leads the diamond queen off the board. Gee wins the king as North follows with the 3.

Well let’s see. If North has the club ace it won’t disappear. West must have at least five spades for his 3S bid. If he has the club ace also then he has ten black suit tricks, the heart ace and a diamond ruff for twelve. The STCP™ will reliably cash the setting trick.

Not the maestro: he shifts to a club! This would be the winning play if declarer were 5-1-1-6, provided one ignores the fact that in this case declarer would draw trump and claim. East wins the ace, which Josh unluckily fails to ruff, ruffs a diamond, plays a round of trump and claims when both defenders follow.

“That three of diamonds fooled me,” says Gee after the hand. “Any middle diamond and I continue hearts.” In Cohen suit preference, you see, your spot card is supposed to show your partner what he holds.

Jan 222003
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: D6

Maestro
S A 7 3 2
H 5
D J 10 7 6 4 2
C Q 10
fan
S 8
H Q 9 8 7 4
D A Q 3
C A 9 8 7
[W - E] rinehart
S K Q 10 5 4
H A J 6
D K
C 5 4 3 2
laurel
S J 9 6
H K 10 3 2
D 9 8 5
C K J 6
West

2NT
3NT

North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
3 C
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

 

How can you toss a hand? Let me count the ways.

Today’s West, holding a game-going hand opposite his partner’s one spade opener, elects to suppress his five-card heart suit in favor of a masterminding 2NT. Naturally, in the parallel universe that is the Gee Chronicles, this is rewarded, as 3NT turns out to be a good deal better than the more natural 4H, which suffers from lack of entries to the closed hand and is always down against decent defense.

Gee leads the D6, best for the defense, but there should be no hope. Declarer needs only four heart tricks, and best is to win in dummy and lead the heart jack, dropping a high spot underneath it. (Otherwise if South holds K10xx, as in the actual layout, she can return a heart to kill dummy’s last entry prematurely and the defense can come to five tricks in the end.) Whether the heart is ducked or won, play a spade honor and return to hearts. This line wins unless a) hearts are 5-0 or South holds a small stiff; or the defense shifts to clubs, they break badly and the long hand also holds the spade ace.

Our declarer, however, plays the heart ace, and now things are up for grabs. This is followed by the heart jack, and South wins the king and continues diamonds. At this point dummy is dead and the contract is hopeless against sentient defense. But wait! declarer leads a spade and our hero ducks, tossing away the defense’s only hope, that declarer has a stiff spade.

Now declarer need only take the marked heart finesse for nine tricks, but wait! declarer leads the heart 6 all right, but then overtakes with the queen.

Declarer plays another heart, as good as anything, driving out South’s 10. South plays a third round of diamonds, and surely declarer can now come to only eight tricks.

Declarer cashes the last heart, on which both defenders throw spades, and the club ace and another club. South should know that Gee is left with a diamond winner and the spade ace, and let the club queen hold. But she overtakes to cash the club jack. Still no harm done; the spade ace makes five tricks for the defense… but wait! Gee discards the spade ace on South’s club winner, keeping the crucial 13th diamond.

“By overtaking my club,” says Gee, “you denied having any spades.”

Jan 132003
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: S6

marcj
S K 7 4 2
H Q 8
D 10 5 2
C 8 7 3 2
aaara
S 9
H J 2
D K J 8 7 6 4
C J 10 9 4
[W - E] bania
S A Q J 8 3
H 10 9 7 6 4
D 3
C A 6
Maestro
S 10 6 5
H A K 5 3
D A Q 9
C K Q 5
West

2 D
Pass

North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
2 H
Pass
South
Dbl
Dbl

 

We begin with two questions. Assuming you have no dummy entries,

1. How do you play 9 opposite AQJ83 for no losers?

2. How do you play J2 opposite 109764 for two losers?

Answers below; first there is bidding to consider. No one could object to Gee’s first double, with 18 points and at least three-card support in all the unbid suits. West’s 2D is a weak bid, showing length, since he has redouble available to show a good hand. East makes the obvious rebid of 2H, putting matters back in Gee’s hands.

Four likely defensive tricks, spade and diamond honors favorably placed for the opponents, broke partner: double of course. How else is partner going to know you have 18 points? North, having been advised that Gee has 18 points, passes, not that he has any choice, and once again it is up to the maestro to lead.

Since North shows up with two defensive tricks after promising nothing, 2H, remarkably, should go down — one on best play, two if declarer misguesses spades, which is likely. The STCP™ might think to lead a trump to cut down on spade ruffs, but Gee has a better idea: he opens the six of spades! North covers the board’s 9 with the king. This is not the world’s best defensive play but perhaps he can plead deep shock. Declarer wins the spade ace and promptly leads his low diamond.

Gee goes up with the diamond ace and decides the time has come to kill the spade ruffs. He plays the trump ace, following with the trump king, in case a third round of trump should prove necessary; you can’t be too careful about these things. Bad luck: this squashes his partner’s natural trump trick.

Now Gee shifts back to spades, relieving declarer of the obligation to drop the 10. Declarer pulls the rest of the trump and scores the doubled uptrick, giving up a club at the end. On the bright side, the diamond king never scores, there are no spade ruffs, and East/West were apparently unfamiliar with the Bones Redouble.

Answer Key

1. Put Gee on lead.

2. Put Gee on lead.

Nov 212002
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: SK

petit_g
S K Q 4 2
H 4
D J 8 4 2
C K J 10 9
aric
S 6
H K Q 10 8 6 2
D Q 10 7 6 3
C 4
[W - E] srul
S A 7
H J 5 3
D 9
C A Q 8 7 6 5 2
Maestro
S J 10 9 8 5 3
H A 9 7
D A K 5
C 3
West

2 H
Pass
5 H
Pass

North
Pass
3 H
4 S
Pass
Pass
East
1 C
4 H
Dbl
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
Pass
Pass
Dbl

 

Today’s auction is perfectly normal, even unexceptionable, until srul’s 4H bid. (Some might double 1S with aric’s hand.) Our hero, having heard a limit spade raise from his partner, holds six trump, Axx in the opponents’ probable nine-card fit, first and second round diamond control, and a stiff in the opponents’ second suit. I would worry about missing slam. Gee passes.

Mini-Gee comes to the rescue with a not-really-warranted four spade call, which East doubles, speculatively, holding two defensive tricks. West properly pulls to 5H with his useless hand defensively, and back we come to our hero. It’s hard to imagine 5S not making if Mini-Gee has his 4S bid, and in fact it makes even though he doesn’t have it. (Declarer must play East for both club honors, which works.) But I guess if you pass four hearts you double five.

Mini gets off to the fine lead of the SK, killing an entry. A trump seems natural on the auction but two rounds of trump almost force declarer to make. He wins the second round in hand, finesses a club, ruffs a club, and has just enough entries to set up the clubs and cash them, making 5. On a trump lead Gee must duck to hold declarer to ten tricks.

But with the spade lead the contract looks hopeless. Declarer does the best he can, playing CA and a small club, hoping to find either defender with Kx, which is enough to make if trump break or the ace drops. Gee shows out on the second club lead: that’s the bad news. The good news is that he ruffs the second club lead, shortening himself to two trump.

Declarer overruffs and leads a diamond, ducked, correctly, by Mini, and won by Gee with the king. He now knows declarer’s hand is either 1-7-4-1 or 1-6-5-1. (Mini must have four spades on the bidding.) Therefore two rounds of trump are 100% certain to stick declarer with at least a second diamond loser and beat the hand.

Dear reader, you must know by now that Gee continues spades. Declarer ruffs the spade, then ruffs a diamond, a club, another diamond and another club. Diamonds break, so a trump off the board finishes the hand; thanks to the early, pointless ruff, Gee has but two trump remaining, to declarer’s three, and he can win the trump ace at his leisure.

“On that sort of auction, Efes,” says Gee, “it’s usually not a good idea to lead our suit.”

Nov 192002
 

Both Vul
MPs
Dealer: West
Lead: H9

e48400
S K 6 4 2
H A J 7
D K 10 7 6
C 10 4
francis
S A 9 3
H 10 6 4 3 2
D 2
C K Q 9 7
[W - E] Maestro
S 8
H Q 9 8 5
D A Q 9 8 3
C J 6 5
howies
S Q J 10 7 5
H K
D J 5 4
C A 8 3 2
West
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Pass
2 C
Dbl
3NT
East
Pass
2 D
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
Pass
2 S
Pass

 

Bridge, it cannot be overstressed, is a cooperative game. And on defense communication is essential. Today’s hand shows Gee and his partner in a seamless performance, each contributing mightily to achieve the result that they deserve.

South applies the rule of 15 and opens a subminimum 1S in fourth seat. North, the aptly named e48400, bids reverse Drury, and our hero, East, throws in a rather irresponsible 2D vulnerable overcall, with South unlimited, partner possibly broke, and 47 losers. On the layout, 2DX is down only 2 on best play, which loses most of the matchpoints but not quite as many as the actual result. (It would be prescient but not impossible for West to run to hearts.)

2D is passed around to North, whose double looks like penalty to me but is taken out to 2S by his partner. North figures, incorrectly, that his partner’s hand is unsuited to defense and, hoping for long runnable spades, takes a wild stab at 3NT, which is where we end up.

Gee kicks off the defensive communications by leading the H9. This communicates a heart honor and length in the suit. Wait. It doesn’t? OK, never mind. It does show the eight though. Probably.

Declarer wins HK and plays spades. West ducks the first round and wins the second, as Gee discards the H5, eliminating the remote possibility of West returning a heart, which beats the contract two tricks. Had Gee kept his hearts and discarded one of his useless diamonds instead, West might have bothered to count the hand, placed North with the diamond ace or king for his notrump bid, and concluded that Gee must have a heart honor for his overcall and was leading from an “interior sequence.”

A club return still beats the contract a trick; but if declarer holds J10x it is a disaster. So West, suboptimally but understandably, leads his partner’s suit. Our hero wins the DQ and thinks matters over. North is marked with the DK for his 3NT bid. He has already shown up with SK, HA and probably HJ as well. Either club honor makes 13 points and an opening hand. Partner holds KQ of clubs, therefore, and two club tricks, two diamond tricks and a spade put the contract to bed. There’s only one thing to do: he returns a low diamond.

A grateful declarer wins the D10 and promptly plays a diamond back, establishing a second diamond for nine tricks. Communication, that’s what I’m saying. Gerard couldn’t have done it without Francis, and Francis couldn’t have done it without Gerard.

Nov 062002
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: C3

o_bones
S A J 6
H K 5
D K 9 6 5 4
C A J 10
pierri
S K 10 4 3
H J 7 2
D Q 7
C Q 9 4 2
[W - E] Maestro
S 5 2
H A 8 6
D J 10 8 2
C K 8 5 3
misu
S Q 9 8 7
H Q 10 9 4 3
D A 3
C 7 6
West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

North

1 D
1NT
2 D
3NT

East

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

South
Pass
1 H
2 C
2 S
Pass

Guest columnist Phil Hernandez writes:

Today finds North/South, misu and lower-case bones (not the Bones Principle author himself but a confederate), in a pushy notrump game. They are playing weak notrumps, so the 1NT rebid shows 15-17. 2C by South is new minor forcing, showing five hearts, and 2S completes the description of a 4-5 hand with 9-11 points, or 8 with Gee on lead.

The stretch does not pay immediate dividends, as Gee opens a club, best for the defense. Declarer takes the club queen with the ace and, lacking entries to set up the hearts, decides to play for diamonds to break and the spade king onside (or ducked). As he leads toward the diamond ace our hero decides to give count and drops D8. This will figure prominently later on. Declarer continues with a winning spade finesse and plays HK. Gee wins the ace — neglecting to duck, which does no harm on the actual layout — and clears the clubs.

Declarer’s last hope appears to be diamonds breaking. But when he cashes the DK, Gee thinks better of his original echo idea and drops the ten, which must be an unblock, or a falsecard, or something. In any case, with the queen and seven falling from West, this brilliancy allows declarer to bring in the diamonds for one loser, making nine tricks.

“Why the diamond ten, partner?” Pierri asks.

Gee thinks for a moment. “The jack would have been no better,” he explains.

Oct 312002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: S5

daffydoc
S 10 7 6 2
H J 8 7 5
D 9 5
C K 10 5
harmon
S J 4
H A K Q 10 2
D A J
C A Q 8 6
[W - E] Maestro
S A Q 3
H 4 3
D K Q 7 6 4 3 2
C 2
balkam
S K 9 8 5
H 9 6
D 10 8
C J 9 7 4 3
West

1 H
2 C
2 S
Pass

North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

East

1NT
2 D
3NT

South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

 

Harmon and Gee weren’t always deadly enemies. As little as a year ago they were partners. Today’s hands may have played a part in the rupture.

Gee, East, hears his partner open one heart in second seat. In Harmon’s not unusual style this often shows some cards. Gee holds a five-loser hand, 11 hcp, and a decent seven-bagger. Certainly this calls for a forcing bid, perhaps, even, some forcing bid other than 1NT. Harmon temporizes with a 2C rebid; with 20 points and 7 controls I might venture 3C myself. (Opening 2NT, another possibility, also works well on this hand.)

Gee bids 2D, showing some extras, a hand like Kxx x KQ10xxx J10x. This bears only a small resemblance to his actual hand. 3D, assuming one is unwilling to bid 2D over 1H in the first place, seems warranted. Harmon replies a forcing 2S, asking for a spade stopper, one surmises. And Gee surmises the same, signing off in 3NT.

The loss is only 9 IMPs, since the diamond grand is only about 90% on a red suit lead. (100% on a spade lead, considerably less on a club).

Now let’s watch the two amigos on defense, in the same session.

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: SA

daffydoc
S Q 7 6 3
H A Q 5 3
D K Q 8 2
C 6
harmon
S J
H 9 7 6
D 9 3
C K Q J 7 5 3 2
[W - E] Maestro
S A 9 8 5 4
H K J 10 2
D 6 5
C 10 9
balkam
S K 10 2
H 8 4
D A J 10 7 4
C A 8 4
West

4 C
Pass
Pass

North
1 D
4NT
6 D
East
Pass
5 C
Pass
South
2 D
5 D
Pass

 

Harmon and Gee do a fine job of jamming the auction here; 5CX is down only 2. South’s 2D is inverted, showing a strong hand with diamond support, and 5D shows two key cards in response to North’s 4NT inquiry. Daffy’s 6D is a bit of a flyer. Make South’s spade king a club and his club ace a spade and the slam has no chance at all. Even with Balkam’s actual, and excellent hand, it is a serious underdog, requiring four tricks in the majors.

There are extra chances, however, with Gee on lead. Either a club or a diamond beats the contract easily, provided he ducks in spades; but Gee takes his own advice and leads his ace. Harmon, of necessity, drops the jack, and Gee takes stock. With K10x in the dummy, under what circumstances would Harmon drop the jack? From Jxx, forfeiting a certain trick if partner has the 9? Nah. From Jx? No point. From QJ or QJx? He’d play the queen. From a stiff jack? Gee whiz, ya think?

Gee shifts to the deceptive ten of hearts, giving declarer his thirteenth trick. It proves not to be necessary.