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I DOUBT if too many readers will be familiar with the technique needed to steer home today's contract, as the Smother Play is rather a rare animal.

North opened the bidding with One No-Trump (15-17) and East overcalled with a pre-emptive Four Clubs. Yoshiyuki Nakamura of Japan was seated South, and closed the auction by bidding Five Diamonds, an unusual call.

West led the jack of clubs, won by South with the ace. He continued with a diamond towards dummy, and was pleased to find the 10 taking the trick, though less so when East showed out. It seemed as if there would be two trump losers, plus a club loser, and the third round of spades posed yet another problem.

There was one chance - that the lead could be thrown to East at a point when his return would damage his partner's trump holding.

Nakamura next successfully finessed the heart jack, cashed the king, then returned to dummy with a top spade, to throw his third-round spade loser on the ace of hearts. He ruffed dummy's last heart, then it was back to dummy with the other top spade, for a spade ruff in hand. Fortunately for South, West had followed throughout, so the scene was set. This is the four-card end position: South: #987, 29. West: 410, #AQ4. North: 44, #KJ, 27. East: 2KQ104.

Now, Nakamura exited with the nine of clubs. West threw his spade - trumping is useless - and East was in. He could only return a club. South ruffed, and West was helpless - his trump queen was smothered. Contract made.

North-South game; dealer North


4 10 6 5 3

! 10 9 8 4

# A Q 4 3

2 J


4 A K 4 2

! A 7 6 5

# K J 10

2 7 3


4 Q J

! Q 3 2

# none

2 K Q 10

8 6 5 4 2


4 9 8 7

! K J

# 9 8 7 6 5 2

2 A 9