ALTHOUGH THIS deal has appeared elsewhere (and will, undoubtedly, be with us in an-thologies of hands in the years to come), it was the declarer play by South (Jeff Meckstroth of the USA) that won him "Le Bridgeur" award for the best-played hand of the year.

It is easy to see that 3NT (with 10 top winners) would have been a straightforward affair but, with no outside entry to his hand, Meckstroth judged that the hand would play better with clubs as trumps in case the club suit did not run.

So the final contract was Five Clubs and, after the lead of a low diamond, it was clear that he was in the wrong spot. Although he had escaped a spade lead, it seemed certain that the defenders would find the right switch when they won their first heart trick. How then would it be possible to escape the three apparently inevitable losers?

Jeff found a far from obvious deceptive play. At trick 1 he played the 10 of diamonds from the table! At worst, he was exchanging one loser for another. East fell for it, however. After winning with DQ, he returned the suit. Now a heart went away from declarer's hand on DA, and a heart to the queen lost to the king. The spade switch that followed was too late, and a ruffing finesse in hearts saw the spade loser go away.

You may think "Weak opposition!" but, oh no, East-West were Norway's Helgemo and Helness, one of the world's leading pairs.