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IT WAS left to me to congratulate West on his devastating opening lead as partner, normally affable enough, was too stunned.

South opened 1NT. As North, I bid a Stayman Two Clubs, and on hearing Two Spades from partner, jumped to Three No-trumps. On lead, West, naturally enough, elected to lead a spade. However, he chose the spade four rather than the text-book king. ("Lead top of three touching honours.") Partner made the correct technical play of the ace from dummy, expecting to block the run of the suit if they broke 5-2.

The contract seemed routine enough - knock out the ace of hearts to give one spade, three heart, two diamond and three club tricks. If the spades broke 4-3, that would give the opposition three spade tricks, plus the HA. And if they broke 5-2, or even 6-1, the run of the suit would be blocked, as West would have led a low card from one or two higher honours - or so reasoned South.

I felt for partner when East took the ace of hearts and returned a small spade, for West to cash four tricks in the suit. West explained his anti- regulation lead. "I was convinced that our only chance of beating the contract was by making four spade tricks, plus another in the wash. With no outside entry to my hand, and knowing that South held four spades, I played for East to hold 10x, or for the position to be as it was and for a competent declarer to play the ace at trick one."

At least West paid my partner the compliment of being competent, but it was poor consolation.

Love all;

dealer South



!K 10 6 4

#K 6 5 2

2K 9 5

West East

4K Q J 4 3 47 5

!8 5 2 !A 9 7

#9 3 #Q J 10 7

2J 7 4 28 6 3 2


410 8 6 2

!Q J 3

#A 8 4

2A Q 10