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It Must Be Chanukah! - Bridge 219

"It must be Chanukah" quipped my partner after we reached the half-way stage in a regular 24-board pairs competition at our local bridge club. Normally, by this stage in a tournament one would have expected to have seen around 6 part-score contracts and potentially 6 game contracts, including even as many as 2 slams, with honors roughly shared between one's selves and one's opponents. Not so the Sunday morning in question, some 6 weeks before Chanukah: In the first 11 boards, my partner and I had chalked up a small slams and 5 games and had bettered the opponents in 3 of the 5 remaining hands. We had hardly put a foot wrong and, to boot, had received several "presents" along the way. The cherry on the top was Board 12 which had us making 3NT, doubled, with an overtrick.

The next 8 hands saw things cool off for us. The odd bidding error and mis-defense had crept into our play and I was just beginning to think my partner's Chanukah quip was premature, when we came to Board 21, both sides vulnerable. As dealer, sitting North, I opened the bidding 1NT, holding ♠5 2, A K Q 2, A K 4 2, ♣ 9 8 6. East overcalled with a conventional bid of 2, showing 5-5 in the majors and 12+ HCP. My partner now bid 2♠, a transfer to 3♣ but West intervened with a pre-emptive jump to 4♠, putting me in somewhat of a quandary. I chose the lesser of all evils, and putting my trust in partner's implied Club holding, bid 5♣, which partner raised to 6♣ after East passed. West however persisted with 6♠, which I doubled. After some thought, partner pulled to 7♣, the final contract. The full hand was:



♠ 5 2

A K Q 2                   


A K 4 2


♠ Q 9 8 7 6 4

♣ 9 8 6

♠ A K J 10 3


J 10 7 6 3

Q 10 9 8 6 5



♣ -

♠ -

♣ K 3

8 5 4

J 3

♣ A Q J 10 7 5 4 2

East made the unfortunate lead of the 7, an obvious singleton. I won the opening lead with the K ln hand. East's hand was now an open book. With 10 cards in the majors and a singleton Diamond, he was marked to have the two missing Clubs so I successfully finessed him for the ♣K and claimed the contract. As it transpired, the opponents had failed to find the excellent sacrifice of 7♠.

Chanukah was clearly now in sight but the fun was not yet over. Two boards later, the penultimate hand of the day, Board 23, my partner, as dealer in the South seat, opened the bidding with 1. West pre-empted with an overcall of 2♠. I countered with 3, showing at least 5 cards in Diamonds and 9 or more HCP. Partner raised to 4 and I responded with 4 to show support for partner's first-bid suit. With the opponents remaining silent, we went about exploring slam possibilities. Carried away by the euphoria of discovering we had all 5 missing key cards, the 4 Aces and the K, plus a 9-card fit in a side by way of the Diamond suit, I had a senior moment and bid 7. West led the ♠K and when I tabled the dummy, Partner raised a quizzical eyebrow. She saw we were missing 5 trumps, including both the Q and J, and stood to lose as many as 3 tricks in the play of the hand.



♠ J 6 2

K 7 3


K J 10 7 6


♠ K Q 10 9 8 5

♣ K 6                        

♠ 7 3


♥ J 8 4 2

♦ Q 5 2



♣ J 10 3

♠ A 4

♣ Q 9 8 7 5 4

A 10 9 6 5

A 9 8 4

♣ A 2

Non-plussed, partner thanked me for the dummy and went about the task of bringing home the slam. Her first consideration was gathering in the trump suit without loss. This would only be possible if West, who was likely to be short in Hearts, held the singleton J or Q or doubleton QJ. So, after winning the opening trick with the ♠A in her hand, she led a small heart towards dummy. When West tabled the Q, she won with the K in dummy and deciding that West's card was indeed a singleton, successfully finessed East for the J on the way back from the table. Next, she crossed back to dummy with the ♣K to repeat the Heart finesse and won the fourth round of Hearts with the A in hand to clear the trump suit. With that task accomplished, she turned her attention to the Diamond suit. Following her instincts that that suit would also break unevenly, she cashed her A, to which both opponents followed low, and then led the 9 towards dummy. When West played low again, she let the 9 ride. It held, East discarding a low Club. Partner then triumphantly cashed dummy's K and the remaining 2 top diamonds, on the last of which, she discarded the spade loser from her hand. An unlikely grand slam made.

Chanukah and then some! 



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