Happy New Year! May all your finesses work from this day forward (or at least half the time, anyway). Ill begin the year with a puzzle that, unlike most puzzle deals, actually occurred. I held the West hand at the last North American Championships.
North opened two clubs (strong and artificial), and South made a negative response of two diamonds. Technically, Souths hand was too strong for this bid; but he lacked a good alternative, and decided to bide his time. North showed his spades, South bid two notrump as a natural bid, and North jumped to game with his self-sufficient suit.
South then sprang to life with Blackwood, and placed the contract in six notrump to protect his minor-suit holdings from the opening lead. I didnt think South could make it so I doubled. In retrospect I probably should have passed; but this was a matchpoint pair event, and every point makes a difference.
I led the spade 10. Declarer won in dummy and cashed two more spades, discarding two diamonds (I threw a heart). The queen and jack of clubs won the next two tricks obviously, I could not afford to win the ace and allow South to get to his hand. Declarer ran the rest of the spades to reach a four-card ending. Since declarer was stranded in dummy, I discarded all my diamonds to keep the ace-10 of clubs and king-small in hearts. Down one.
Okay, sports fans! Make me eat my double! How could declarer have made his contract? Give it a try before reading further.
The key to success is to reach the South hand, which cannot be done by usual means. When the front door is locked, you have to use the back door. Win two (or more) spade tricks, then lead the club queen and overtake with the king. West must win the ace (else you have 12 tricks with the heart finesse), then whatever he returns allows you to reach your hand. Note the presence of the club nine, which is critical to the position.
© 1989 Richard Pavlicek