Safety Last – The Gee Chronicles
Mar 282003

Both Vul
Dealer: East
Lead: S10

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

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein

It is with trepidation that I ignore Wittgenstein and attempt an analysis of today’s hand.

West opens a lightish 2C, and the maestro replies with 2D, which is — waiting? negative? diamonds? Whereof one cannot speak…

South’s 4C vulnerable is a death wish. He catches a miracle dummy and goes for only 500 on accurate and 200 on the probable defense. West doubles, which, with no suits having yet been bid by his side, sure looks like takeout to me. Now you might figure North to bid some number of clubs, but North is a disciple of the “give ’em enough rope” school, he passes, and it’s hard to argue with the result. Six in either red suit is cold, but Gee, mindful of the significance of the extra 10 points at IMPs, and sure that his partner’s double promises not only a club stopper but a club stopper that’s safe to lead through, shoots 6NT. West can’t do anything but pass, for the captain has spoken. North doubles and prays.

Do I lead a club on this auction? Probably. But South reasons, understandably, that if North had club tricks he would have supported clubs, and he throws the 10 of spades on the table.

All is in the maestro’s capable hands. Can he find the two-way safety play in hearts and take thirteen top tricks? He wins the spade in hand and leads a diamond to the board. Both defenders follow; so far so good. He plays four more rounds of diamonds, ramping up the suspense; North tosses all of his spades. With the specs on the edge of their seats, the maestro slaps down the king of hearts, carefully catering to South’s possible 1-4-3-7 holding. South shows out, and it’s all over.

One must be silent.

  9 Responses to “Safety Last”


    6D is not so cold.


    The STCP can benefit from a peek into the mind of the maestro, the master of inversion, who can, Geewillie-nillie, turn dummy play into play like a dummy. Once the opponents follow to the first diamond, it is clear even to the STCP that there are now five diamonds, three spades, and three hearts (that’s eleven tricks, in case there’s an STCP who cannot count, and not very far removed from the twelve tricks necessary to secure the contract). A true maestro always gives the opponents a chance to make an error; hence Gee runs his diamonds. With all those clubs it is entirely possible an opponent may confuse red with black and toss a heart, making a two-way unsafety play moot. The STCP, holding AQ843 opposite KT97, might be forgiven for cashing an honour from the holding with two of them, not caring if either opponent showed chicane. Failing that, the STCP (even were the holdings reversed) might cash the single honour from the hand behind the announced long suit, reasoning that if the opponent had a suit of six or seven or eight cards in length, he just might be a trifle short in another suit…or two…or three. Then again, peeking into the mind of the maestro might warp the STCP permanently, perhaps even driving him to — choke — pinochle. Forget the whole thing.


    7 NT cold on spade lead :))))))))))


    Interestingly, the maestro was still cold even after playing the heart K, since mih was down to top clubs and the Jxx of hearts. If the maestro had simply cashed his spades he would have been able to endplay mih with a club forcing a heart return. This is a much more elegant ending than the pedestrian safety play; clearly the maestro intended it as instructional for the specs but was forced by OKB to misclick.


      Not quite Ira…your line requires declarer to have tossed either a heart or a spade on the fifth diamond instead of the losing club in which case, in the five card ending, North would retain two top clubs and Jxx of hearts and the endplay would fail. And if east does pitch a club from dummy, there is no exit card.


        No Phil, not if the maestro works it right. Declarer runs his diamonds pitching dummy’s club, then runs his spades pitching club from hand. The end position is dummy with AQxxx of hearts, declarer with K109x of hearts, and a club. When declarer now leads a heart to the king, all he has to do is exit his club for the endplay, unless mih has thrown all 3 of his clubs while this was going on and that is pretty unlikely. I still believe Gee intended this and was forced to misclick.


          Nah, Phil’s right. The problem is you have to cash the spades before cashing the heart king. Gee’s line was to win the first spade, cash five diamonds, and then cash the heart king before playing the spades. At that point he’s screwed. Doubtless not cashing spades first was another misclick.


    I mildly disagree that double is takeout. After 2C the partnership is in a force; if West passes East is not going to pass, so pass by West is effectively takeout. This helps you in other auctions where they might be psyching you, say 2C – 2H – P – P to you and you opened 2C with six good hearts (to use a recent Master Solvers Club example).

    However, this is a minor point as I more than mildly disagree with the subsequent auction and play. Much more than mildly.

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