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A Crucial Guess

  by Richard Pavlicek

The Spring North American Bridge Championships were completed last Sunday in Portland, Oregon, when the team of Edgar Kaplan (New York City), Norman Kay (Narberth PA), Bill Root (Boca Raton) and this writer captured the Vanderbilt Cup. Today’s deal produced great excitement when it occurred on the 63rd deal (of 64) in our semifinal match. Norman Kay had to guess the location of a queen — with the outcome of the match in the balance!

6 C South
N-S Vul
S K 7 6 4
H K 8 2
D K 9 6 2
C 9 2


2 S
4 D
4 NT
1 H
3 H
4 C
4 H
6 C
S 9 8 5 2
H 10 6 4
D 7 3
C Q 8 5 4
TableS Q 3
H A Q J 9 7 5 3
D J 10 5 4

Lead: H 4
S A J 10
D A Q 8
C A K J 10 7 6 3

Kay, South, doubled East’s opening bid and Kaplan, North, made an aggressive jump to two spades to invite game. When East competed to three hearts, South introduced his powerful club suit and North bid his diamonds. South forced the bidding again with a cue-bid; North showed his heart stopper; and South jumped to the excellent club slam.

After ruffing the opening heart lead and cashing a high club, declarer conceded the inevitable trump loser to West’s queen and ruffed the heart continuation. The remaining trumps were drawn (discarding two spades from dummy) and three rounds of diamonds were cashed, ending in the South hand. Declarer was disappointed to find East with the long diamonds since the contract would otherwise be a cinch. (If West held the long diamonds, cashing the last trump would squeeze both West and East so that neither could keep three spades in the ending.)

As it was, everything depended on the spade guess. Declarer knew from counting the hand that West began with four spades and East only two; and this favored West to hold the queen. But then there was East’s opening bid of one heart, which favored East to hold the queen. The reliability of the latter assumption was uncertain because East’s choice of bids was a tactical matter and he might not hold the spade queen.

Finally, after some deliberation, Kay got it right to win his slam contract and the match… as our hearts skipped a beat.

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek