South on this deal will go nameless, but suffice it to say he is a well-known expert. After the 1 opening, North could picture a likely a slam, but investigation was needed; 2 followed by 3 was game-forcing. When South showed club control, North used Roman key-card Blackwood, and 5 showed two key cards without the Q. This meant a probable trump loser in spades, so North bid 6 to suggest an alternate strain. Alas, South didnt want any part of that contract and corrected to 6 .
West led the 7, and declarer took advantage of the free finesse: jack, queen, ruff. Next came the K, dropping an ominous jack on his right, then a spade to the ace as West split his honors. West now held Q-8, and North the blank nine, so two trump losers seemed inevitable and declarer conceded down one. Oops. He should have played on.
When the bad trump break is revealed, there is still a good chance. Cash a heart to pitch a club, then take the club finesse and cash the A. Cross to the A and ruff a club, which leaves dummy with 9 K-10-9-8 facing 7 K-Q-J-8. Now just lead good diamonds, and all West can win is the Q.
The play brings out another interesting aspect at the highest level. West also might have foreseen the ending and not split his spade honors. Should South finesse the nine? Sure, you say, looking at all four hands; but if it lost to a doubleton honor, you might be set by a heart ruff (a singleton heart is not so far-fetched considering the lead). Indeed, most players would win the ace, figuring that West would always split with Q-10-8.
The moral: Never underestimate the power of the trump suit.
© 2004 Richard Pavlicek