Eric Stricoff and Rhonda Cohen showed why they’re partners in cards as well as life at the Bridge Club of Martha’s Vineyard on July 23. They were sitting North-South on board nine, with North dealing and East-West vulnerable:

NORTH (Stricoff)

♠ Q 9 7 6 4 2

♥ A K 8 5 3



WEST                EAST

♠ K 10 5             ♠J 8 3

♥ 9 6                   ♥10

♦ Q 9 3 2            ♦10 8 7 6 5 4

♣ J 6 3 2             ♣ K 7 5

SOUTH (Cohen)


♥ Q J 7 4 2

♦ A K

♣ Q 10 9 8 4

The bidding proceeded as follows:

North        East        South        West

1♠             Pass        2♥             Pass

3 ♥            Pass        4NT          Pass

5♦*           Pass        5♥             Pass

7♥            All Pass

* Shows zero or three of the five “key cards” (four aces, heart king)

Opening lead: heart 9

“Rhonda and I play 2-over-1, so her 2♥ response is game-forcing and shows at least five hearts,” Eric says. “At that point I knew we had a 5-5 heart fit and I could raise to 3♥ , which shows more than a minimum and won’t be passed. (With a minimum hand, I would have gone right to 4♥.)

“Once we establish a trump suit, we normally cuebid suit controls up the line. She knew I had five spades and some extra values, but did not know the quality of my suit or that I also had five hearts, so her immediate jump to 4NT asking for key cards implied that she was not worried about spade losers, but was more concerned about the heart ace and king and the club ace.”

In case Eric was showing no key cards with his 5♦ bid, Rhonda bid 5♥. Eric was sure Rhonda wouldn’t be asking for key cards without two of them, so he went to 7♥. In short, he didn’t have to say, “Help me, Rhonda.”

“Given my unbalanced distribution, I assumed that she also had an unusually unbalanced hand, with either shortness in spades or good spade support giving us a two-suited fit,” Eric continues. “(Why else would she be exploring slam?)

“With shortness in both minors and length in the trump suit, and confident that we had all five key cards, I assumed that she would be able to either crossruff or ruff out losers in one of the minors or in spades to establish the suit. She could have had a spade loser, but given the distribution and the bidding, it seemed unlikely.

“We both tend to be somewhat aggressive in our bidding, especially when we know we have a two-suited fit or unusual distribution, so I thought that 7♥ was a very reasonable gamble.”

After drawing trump in two rounds with the queen-jack, Rhonda counted up her sure tricks. She could cash the spade ace, diamond ace-king and club ace, ruff three clubs on the board and ruff three spades in her hand. If you’re counting, that adds up to 12 tricks. It was necessary to develop a 13th trick by establishing a winner in clubs or spades.

After cashing the side-suit winners, Rhonda ruffed a club, ruffed a spade, ruffed a club and ruffed a spade. Triumphantly, she cashed the club queen, now established as a winner, and claimed.