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THERE was a curious point in the play of this harmless-looking deal. It was the type of play that you remember if you have seen it before, but which is remarkably easy to overlook at the table if it is strange to you. When the hand came up in match play, only one declarer got matters right.


S. 8 5

H. 9 3

D. Q J 10 7 5 3

C. K 6 4


S. A K 4 3

H. A K 5 2

D. 6 4

C. A Q J


S. Q J 10 9 6

H. 10 6

D. K 9 8 2

C. 8 5


S. 7 2

H. Q J 8 7 4

D. A

C. 10 9 7 3 4

South opened Two No-trumps (it was difficult to find a sensible alternative despite the diamond weakness) and North raised to game in no-trumps - more practical than trying for game in diamonds.

West led the queen of spades against Three No- trumps, was allowed to win the trick, and continued with the jack to South's king. With only seven top winners, it was obviously necessary to bring in the diamond suit. One declarer led low to the queen and ace, won the heart return, and led another diamond to the ten. This held, but when East showed out it was the end of the suit, and South had to be satisfied with eight tricks.

At the other table, declarer read a little more into the possibilities of the diamond suit. If the missing diamonds divided 3-2, he argued, it was certain competent defenders (unless one of them held ace-king alone) would let him win the first trick. Then, with only the king of clubs as a side entry to dummy, the suit could not be brought in. The best chance was to duck the first round of diamonds in the hope that the suit broke 4-1 with a singleton honour.

You can see the sequel - East's ace of diamonds fell on nothing, the next diamond was led from the South hand, and with the king of clubs as an entry to the table, 10 tricks rolled in.