Bridge: Playing mind games

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The Independent Culture
STRICTLY speaking, South had no real chance of making Four Spades as the cards lay on this deal. Straightforward play would have led to his almost certain defeat, but he introduced a psychological twist that caught West wrong-footed.

Game all; dealer East


S. 10 9 5

H. A 10 7

D. A Q J 8 5

C. K 3


S. K 7 3

H. 8 5

D. 7 4 2

C. J 9 6 5 2


S. 2

H. Q J 9 6 4 2

D. K 6 3

C. A Q 8


S. A Q J 8 6 4

H. K 3

D. 10 9

C. 10 7 4

East opened One Heart, South overcalled in spades and was raised to game by North. West led the eight of hearts against Four Spades, and declarer spent some while considering his problem.

As he had escaped a club lead, the only way he could go down would be if he found West with the missing king of trumps. Then, when West got in with his king, the club switch would be automatic and so the diamond finesse would undoubtedly be wrong.

One possibility was the play off the ace of trumps, but the chances of finding West with the singleton king were low. Instead, West tried another idea. He won the heart lead in hand, and immediately led the queen of trumps. He did not mind if it was East who won with the king, for East would be unable to attack clubs profitably, and there would be plenty of time for declarer to develop dummy's diamond suit. West looked at the queen suspiciously. Could it be that his partner held the singleton ace? As his king would still be safe, he played low.

This gave South the chance he needed. After cashing the ace of trumps (leaving West with the king alone), declarer started on the diamonds. East took his king and returned a heart, but two of South's clubs had gone away on the diamonds before West was able to ruff with his king. As a result, the defence was held to one spade, one diamond and one club.