Indipendent Pursuits: Bridge

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THIS WAS a deal of fluctuating fortunes. There was a straightforward play for South to make his grand slam but, as it seemed unlikely to succeed, declarer tried another tack. When this seemed to have failed, he committed the cardinal sin of conceding one off, having unknowingly reached a winning position!

West chose a good moment to open Three Hearts but, in spite of this, North-South did well to reach the grand slam in spades - not an easy task, having started the bidding at such a high level. West led the king of hearts against Seven Spades and declarer could see only 12 top winners. There were, however, many chances - the clubs might break evenly and there were all sorts of squeeze possibilities. As the cards lay, simply playing off all the trumps and the two top diamonds would have squeezed West in hearts and clubs but, as West was marked with long hearts, the chance of him holding the clubs as well seemed remote.

Perhaps a double squeeze? thought South. Ah! That looked promising - with West holding the heart and East the clubs, neither could keep a diamond guard. So he drew four rounds of trumps and tested the clubs. To his annoyance, it was West who held the length there all the time. With the comment "Someone will make a diamond at the end!" he gave up (snatching defeat from the jaws of victory).

I said that he was in a winning position - why should he have played on? The key factor is that West happened to hold two of the three missing diamond honours. After three rounds of clubs South should ruff a heart in hand and cash his last trump. West would be forced to retain !Q and 2J in front of dummy, so compelled to bare his queen of diamonds. Then the ace of diamonds could be followed by the now marked finesse of the nine for the 13th trick.