OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE by Stephen Rzewski To win matchpoint events, one must play well, make few mistakes, and hope for some luck. Besides receiving some outright “gifts” from opponents, good luck can occasionally befall players who find themselves in poor, anti-percentage contracts, whether by result of a bidding misunderstanding, or by aggressive overbidding. When faced with the prospect of playing what seems like a hopeless contract, it is essential to keep one’s head and look for a favorable lie of the cards that will enable you to bring the requisite tricks home, no matter how improbable. And conversely, when luck similarly smiles upon the opponents, one has to learn to philosophically accept what may seem like the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—and move on to the next hand. On the last round of a two-session Sectional open pairs, where I sense that we might be in contention, I pick up: ♠ Q76 ♥ A76432 ♦ AK7 ♣ A With neither side vulnerable, my LHO opens 1NT (14-17), and my partner overcalls 2♣. In our methods, that call shows clubs and a five-card major, which I can infer from my hand must be spades. With a spade fit and all those controls, I have what looks like a great hand. I bid 2NT, which we use as an asking bid, and partner answers 3C, which is his weakest action, indicating a bad hand without disclosing which major he holds. Still, it is hard for me to imagine a holding where we do not have some kind of play for game, so I bid 4♠, which is passed out (in retrospect, my 2NT inquiry was probably a pointless exercise). LHO leads the ♦Q, and there is some hilarity when the dummy appears, as I see that partner really meant his 3♣ call: ♠ 109432 ♥ J9 ♦ 2 ♣ J10982 ♠ Q76 ♥ A76432 ♦ AK7 ♣ A Unfortunately, it looks as though we will be heading for an untimely minus score, as it will take some miraculous holding or bad defense for me to make this contract. It looks like my best play is to take my side winners and try to scramble as many ruffs as I can, and hope for the best. So I win the diamond lead and start by playing my singleton ♣A, to lay the groundwork for scoring club ruffs in my hand. It is a good thing that I am paying attention, as my often inattentive eyes catch sight of the queen on my left. Wait a minute. To find out if that is a true card, I lead my low diamond, ruff in dummy, and play a 2nd club, ruffing in my hand. As if answering a prayer, the king of clubs does in fact come down on the table. Instead of proceeding with my first idea of crossruffing, I change tactics by leading the queen of spades: LHO pauses, then plays low, as RHO produces the ace. He then leads a heart. I play the ace, followed by the king of diamonds so as to discard dummy’s losing heart, then cross my fingers as I play a second spade. I am almost afraid to look, as LHO wins the jack, and RHO…. follows suit! The dummy has only good clubs and two trumps against LHO’s lone remaining king. If he leads a red card, I simply ruff and lead good clubs, the last trump giving me control. Making +420. Actually, I have to confess to having made a subtle error in the play: at the table, after winning the diamond lead, I made the mistake of playing the second high diamond and pitching a heart from dummy immediately. This could have led to trouble when RHO won the ace of spades, as he could have defeated me by playing a 4th diamond, which would have made the hand unmanageable. In fact, he saved me by playing a heart. To be fair, from his point of view, I might have had a heart loser, which could go away if his diamond play resulted in giving me a ruff and sluff. Of course, if the defense had led a trump on opening lead and drawn three rounds, they would have enjoyed a club winner and defeated the contract, and I would have had no story to tell. The complete deal: ♠ 109432 ♥ J9 ♦ 2 ♣ J10982 ♠ KJ8 ♠ A5 ♥ Q85 ♥ K10 ♦ QJ654 ♦ 10983 ♣ KQ ♣ 76543 ♠ Q76 ♥ A76432 ♦ AK7 ♣ A Just to show that the universe has its way of balancing out, following is a hand from a Regional tournament in Saratoga, last Spring, on which I was a defender:: ♠ 74 ♥ AK64 ♦ J852 ♣ 852 ♠ AK3 ♥ Q52 ♦ AK3 ♣ AQJ4 At our table, the opponents who bid this hand had two misunder- standings: in answer to South’s strong 2♣ opening, North responded positively in hearts, showing a good five-card suit, when he held only four. Then later in a Blackwood auction, North responded 6♣ to 5NT, which South thought showed the king of that suit. Based on those two pieces of misinformation, South bid what seemed like a reasonable 7NT. The opening lead was a spade, which declarer won in hand. Well, to make this hand, declarer needed the king of clubs onside (it was), two entries to dummy to take and repeat the club finesse (the two high hearts), clubs and hearts to both split 3-3 so as to make the long card in each suit (they did), and the most outrageous of all, the queen of diamonds to come down doubleton so as to score the jack for the 13th trick (down she came). For this undeservedly bad result (known in the parlance as a “fix”) to befall us, I calculate the probability to be less than 1%**. On a hand where no other pair, quite reasonably, was even in a small slam, I think this was perhaps the roundest zero I have ever experienced. Nonetheless, when the last card was played, all FOUR players at the table burst into laughter. ** Amend that to around 2%, as I failed to take certain possibilities into account in my estimate. See "comment" below, by my good friend, Michael Klein.