Source: The One That Got Away

Fishing isn’t the only sport whose enthusiasts are tempted to tell white lies about their accomplishments. Even bridge players stretch the truth occasionally, as my partner did after this hand at a long-ago national tournament in Chicago.

Chicago NABC Golder Master Pairs — Aug., 1979

Matchpoints — Dealer North, N/S Vul

A 10
A 8 6
A J 8 7 6
A J 2
Q J 6
5 2
2
K Q 10 9 8 7 6
9 7 5 4 3 2
3
K Q 10 5
4 3
K 8
K Q J 10 9 7 4
9 4 3
5
West North East South
Me Bill
1 Pass 1
3 3NT Pass 4NT
Pass 5 Pass 6
Pass Pass Pass

Opening lead: 2

Sitting North, I opened 1and showed a strong hand with 3NT over West’s preemptive 3. My partner, Bill Doroshow, tried Blackwood and confidently bid the heart slam when he learned I had all four aces.

Bill knew the slam was doomed, though, when he saw the diamond lead — an obvious singleton. At the table, he thought for a minute and ducked. East won and gave his partner a diamond ruff. Bill calmly claimed for down one, looked up and said, “Unlucky”, and we went on to the next hand.

Later in the session, Bill started thinking about the hand again and brilliance hit him — he realized how he could have made 12 tricks. And he got full mileage out of this revelation when, after swearing me to secrecy, he proceeded to tell our friends that he had indeed made the slam.

Over dinner, I sat quietly as Bill told his “fish story” to the others at the table:

“I knew the diamond lead was a singleton,” he explained. “So I won the ace and just made sure East couldn’t get the lead to cash his diamonds. I pulled two rounds of trumps and cashed the spade king. Then I led a club to the ace, trumped dummy’s small club in my hand, and led a spade to dummy’s ace.”

Bill pulled out a pen and diagrammed the end position on the back of a convention card:


8
J 8 7 6
J
Q
 

K Q 10 9 8
9 7 5

K Q 10

Q J 10 9
9 4

“Of course, West was marked with the rest of the clubs,” Bill said, sitting up a little straighter in his chair. “So I now led dummy’s club jack and pitched a diamond from my hand! West won, but the poor guy was endplayed — he had to lead either a spade or a club, letting me trump in dummy and pitch the last diamond from my hand. Making six!”

This was greeted by a chorus of congratulations from our dinner companions, with Bill shrugging his shoulders in a feeble attempt at modesty. “I did come up with the right line all by myself, you know,” he whispered to me when we were out of earshot.

Unfortunately, the official scoresheet back at the hotel still said -100 and we had missed a section top by only two matchpoints. Bill’s version of the “one that got away”, however, was a winner. And he did, after all, think of it all by himself.