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O Can-a-da, You Did Us In Again

  by Richard Pavlicek

My title is an attempt to rewrite the national anthem of our northern neighbors. In the recently held Royal Viking Pairs, a continentwide event, the winning pairs (both North-South and East-West) were from Canada — Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to be precise. The top score was just short of 80 percent, remarkable in a bridge contest.

Today’s deal, No. 5 in the booklet, illustrates that there is more to hand evaluation than just point count. An expert pair would bid the North-South cards to slam in a flash despite only 25 combined HCP. I recommend the auction shown in the diagram.

6 D South
E-W Vul
S A Q J 10 8
H 6
D 9 7 2
C A 7 6 5


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

Lead: C 3
S 5 3
H A 4 2
D A K Q J 4 3
C 9 2

After two routine bids, South has a choice between two and three diamonds, but the latter stands out because of the excellent suit quality. North immediately senses a slam in diamonds, and he tries to elicit more information with a bid of four clubs. South next bids four hearts to show the ace (a real heart suit would have been shown earlier), and this is all North needs. Six diamonds! Blackwood is unnecessary since North knows that at least three aces are held.

Some might argue that six diamonds is only a fair contract because it requires the spade finesse; but this overlooks an important factor, the opening lead. The spade finesse is crucial only after a club lead. After a heart or any other lead, declarer will succeed (barring freak distribution) even when East has the spade king. Since a heart lead is just as likely as a club, the success rate for six diamonds is about 75 percent — not exactly money in the bank, but too good to pass up.

Assume West finds the annoying club lead. Declarer should win all 13 tricks with routine play. Win the club ace, lead a diamond to the ace, and take the spade finesse… sigh of relief. Next win the heart ace, ruff a heart, and lead all your trumps (not critical but sound technique). Finally, a second spade finesse nets the rest of the tricks.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek