After the first session of the Club Championship Pairs, my partner, Mike Seaver and I were just leading the field from Ken and Penny Riley, recent recipient of the Dimmie Flemming Award.
When the two pairs met during the second session, there was more than the usual friendly rivalry in the air.
On the first board, Ken picked up ♠AKJ9843 ♥AQ ♦5 ♣Q109 and heard Mike, his right hand opponent, open 1♠ in third seat at favourable vulnerability.
Ken checked his cards and felt unhappy. He glanced at Mike, who seemed unnaturally calm, and back at his cards, and felt even more unhappy. He then passed with the look of a man who had just been given some very unpleasant news at the hospital.
The clouds opened briefly when his left hand opponent responded 1NT and the bidding came back to Ken after two passes.
For what it is worth, I think that the "right" action to show this type of hand is now to double, which effectively shows a penalty double of 1♠. However Ken passed - which in a sense was exactly the right thing to do in that it was the last real chance for his side to score a plus score.
The spotlight now turned to Penny who had to lead from ♠2 ♥KJ1064 ♦762 ♣8742. Even without the mild smell of smouldering discontent which had contaminated the air, partner was marked with a fair number of points and Penny chose the ♥J, a reasonable selection - although, perhaps missing both the ♥9 and an outside entry, a low heart might have been advisable.
And so it proved, for the complete hand was:
It was now impossible for the defence to take more than six tricks and, in the event, one defensive trick slipped away when Ken won with the ♥A and returned the ♥Q, which Penny felt unable to afford to overtake for fear of establishing a trick for declarer's ♥87.
I spite of this, -120 proved to be a remarkably good pairs score. Many holding Ken's hand had been unable to contain themselves against the "obviously psychic" 1♠ opening, and, as a result, had ended up in 3♠ (or higher) going off, usually doubled!