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One Tiny Slip Lets Bold Bid Make

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from the Summer North American Bridge Championships completed two weeks ago in Baltimore, achieved notice in the tournament’s Daily Bulletin regarding the play by South at a spade contract. It was mentioned that declarer required “one tiny slip by West [in discarding]” to win 10 tricks; but a closer look shows that to be unnecessary.

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

Lead: D K
S A K Q 9 8 7
H Q 5 4 2
D 9
C K 5

The bidding is reasonable but optimistic. South doubled to indicate a strong hand, and then introduced his spade suit after his partner was forced to bid. One might question why South did not raise his partner’s heart suit; but his motive was to protect the club king from the opening lead — a crucial maneuver. When North produced a dubious raise to three spades, South eagerly continued to game.

West led the diamond king, then continued the suit to force South to ruff. Trumps were drawn in four rounds (discarding a club and a diamond from dummy) and a low heart was led to the ace. The appearance of the heart jack gave declarer cause to wonder; but West’s opening bid made him an overwhelming favorite to hold the heart king, as well as the club ace. On that basis there was just one chance — an endplay against West.

Declarer ruffed another diamond, devoiding himself of trumps, and exited with a low heart which West won perforce with the king. Left with only clubs, West had to give South a trick with the club king, and the remaining two heart winners completed the overbidders’ dream.

So what could West have done? Nothing. The “one tiny slip” was by East, who could have defeated the contract by overtaking the diamond king with the ace at trick one to lead the club queen. Realistically, however, this is an unsound play because West might be leading from king-small (East bid diamonds). Therefore, in a bridge court of law, East is acquitted.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek