8 6 5 3 2
9 8 7 6
K J 9 6
Q J 6 3
K J 4
Q 5 4 2
A Q 10 5 4 2
A 7 3
10 9 7 5 2
A 10 9 7
After a year of following Gerard I still slight some of his talents. Mostly we see him at IMPs; today, a little lesson in matchpoint strategy.
East/West reach five spades after a rather inelegant auction, which is generally how one reaches five of a major. It’s a nice hand for fourth-suit forcing. A possible auction over one spade might be two diamonds (forcing to game) — two hearts — three spades (showing four-card support) — four clubs — four spades (no diamond stop to cue bid) — all pass. (I should note that 3NT is the best contract, and that no table produced this auction or anything like it.)
However, West blasts to four spades over one spade, and East, with his maximum, Blackwoods and signs off in five spades when he finds out they’re off two aces.
Matters are in the maestro’s capable hands, and now matchpoint strategy enters the picture. The STCP™ would reason that if five spades is down it’s probably a good score anyway. But there are good scores, and there are Gee scores. Partner’s silence probably indicates a defensive trick, after all; and why score 90 when 100 is available? Gee doubles, and now it’s time to lead.
He knows they’re off the two aces he holds. He also knows they have a lot of points or they wouldn’t be investigating slam. What can his partner have? Figure a queen at most. West is marked for at least four spades and four hearts. East failed to raise hearts, indicating three or fewer, but probably not extreme shortness, otherwise he wouldn’t have been interested in slam, fearing wasted values in the heart suit. So unless partner has a red king, there are two chances to beat four hearts. Best is to lead a heart, playing partner for a stiff. Second best is to underlead the diamond ace, playing for something like KJx on the board opposite two small, and putting declarer to a tough guess.
As it happens, a heart lead doesn’t work. At the table Gee led the club jack, grabbed the trump ace on the first round, cashed the diamond ace, and shifted to hearts. That doesn’t work either.