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OVER the years you hear many hard luck stories of events at the bridge table. Some of the disasters are self-inflicted, but I felt real sympathy for one West on this deal from a recent big pairs event.

South exercised superhuman restraint in passing Five Spades but, in spite of his partner's reverse, he judged (correctly) that he might easily lose to the ace of hearts and that the trump suit would be by no means solid. Now came West's big moment. On lead, he diagnosed the situation perfectly and led - wait for it! - the jack of spades. Perhaps he reasoned that, with a slightly different set up, he might still make his king but, whatever his motives, the lead worked like a charm. After winning declarer could do no better than lead the jack of hearts. West took his ace and continued with the king of trumps, putting dummy to sleep for ever. Eventually he came to three heart tricks.

Why was this a hard luck story? Well, no other pair stopped short of a slam. Some failed by more than one trick in a hopeless Six No-trumps, some had even essayed a wild grand slam. West's splendid effort had left him with a near bottom score.