Q J 10 7 5
K Q 9 8 5 4 3
K Q 10 3
A 6 3
A 7 6
Q 5 3
A J 2
9 8 2
A K 9 4 2
9 8 7 6 4
J 10 8 7 6
Many Sticks and Wheels hands, for all the suspense that they provide in the bidding, lack it in the play, where it’s usually a question of 800 vs. 1100 at the most. But in today’s hand the play supplies most of the excitement, and the outcome is in doubt until the last possible moment.
Our protagonist, in fourth seat, chooses 2D over 1C-P-1S, eschewing the four or five ways to show a two-suiter in this position. East puts in a support double, showing three spades, and West makes the obvious jump to 3NT, which is cold. Gee now, finally, bids his shorter, major suit at the four-level, forcing his partner to the five-level to show a diamond preference. His partner passes, reasonably, and fortunately too, because 5D is always down 1 or 2 and then I would have no hand to show you.
Best for the defense is to play black suit winners at every opportunity. Declarer eventually loses control of the hand and probably goes for 800. And the defense gets off to a good start by leading the CA. Gee makes the desperation play of discarding his spade loser, praying not be tapped, and his prayer is answered, as East switches to trump, apparently to prevent diamond ruffs. West takes Gee’s HK with the A and returns a club, but with trump breaking it’s too late. Gee ruffs, pulls trump in two rounds (making it clear to both defenders that he began 1-5-7-0), and plays the DQ, which holds. The J does not drop.
So what’s the diamond layout? Declarer needs to find either defender with Ax or Axx. The defenders know he has seven diamonds. Therefore either defender, holding Ax, would win the first diamond to protect a possible Jxx in his partner’s hand. Therefore declarer must play for Axx by leading the DK, squashing the presumed Jx and making the hand.
It is with some chagrin that I report that Gee led a low diamond, losing to the J, was tapped out of his last trump and proceeded to go for yet another Sticks and Wheels. Is playing for the defenders to make the zero percent play itself a zero percent play? This philosophical question is of some interest, and perhaps I will take it up another time.
This appears to be a clear case of “Spy vs. Spy and Lie vs. Lie”, combined with all the qualities of a “Christmas Hand” (I give to you and you give to me). Gee has shown great imagination in the bidding, for he has in effect invented a “reverse by intervenor” sequence, wherein responder to intervenor “prefers” by not returning to the suit he likes least. This tactic is also confusing to the defense, as has been noted. Perhaps Gee thought that the opponents missed the inference available in the bidding and indeed relied upon the deceptive zero play of ducking with Ax. Certainly if he had been right in his assessment he would have been rewarded with a plus 590, and the kudos of all for exercising as much imagination in the play as he did in the auction.