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Brilliant Play

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal was played by one of the country’s top experts, Lou Bluhm of Atlanta, in the final of the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams in Portland, Oregon. As the deal was bid and played, it was simultaneously displayed on Vugraph (an overhead projection system) in a different room for spectators to watch and listen to an analysis by expert commentators.

Bluhm, South, opened one spade after three passes and North’s two-club response was the Drury convention, which promised spade support and near-opening values. South wasted no time in bidding the reasonable game.

4 S South
E-W Vul
S K J 2
H A J 8 2
D Q J 7 6
C 10 2
2 C
1 S
4 S
S 7 5 3
H K 9 7 3
D 9 5 3
C A Q 6
TableS A 6
H Q 10 6 4
D 10 2
C J 9 8 5 3

Lead: S 5
S Q 10 9 8 4
H 5
D A K 8 4
C K 7 4

West found an excellent lead with a trump, and East won the ace and returned the suit. This defense appeared to doom the contract, for declarer could never obtain a club ruff in dummy; nor could he obtain a trick with the club king, since the ace was lurking offside. The expert commentators all agreed that declarer had no chance barring a gross error by the defenders.

Bluhm did not accept his fate so routinely. Looking at only two hands (the commentators saw all four) he found the winning play in the form of a partial “dummy reversal.” After the second spade, he continued: heart ace; heart ruff; diamond to the jack; heart ruff; diamond to the queen; and another heart ruff to exhaust the South hand of trumps.

In a normal dummy reversal declarer would return to dummy to draw the last trump; but that was impossible here. Declarer could only lead his top diamonds and hope for the best. West was obliged to ruff the fourth diamond (else declarer had his 10th trick) and was endplayed, forced to give declarer his 10th trick with the club king.

Bluhm’s brilliant play earned only a tie board as four spades was made in the other room in conventional manner (ruffing a club in dummy) when the defense led only one round of trumps.

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek