Pursuits: Bridge

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WHEN A card from dummy may, or may not, may be the prelude to a ruffing finesse, the defender who is in a position to cover often has a difficult decision to make. On this deal, although the slam reached by North-South was odds on, the 4-1 trump break should have led them to defeat.

North opened One Club and South, judging that otherwise it might be difficult for him to catch up later, forced with Two Diamonds. North showed his hearts and a series of incomprehensible bids now led the partnership to Six Diamonds. As I said, it was a good slam until West led 4J to the queen, king and ace, and two rounds of trumps exposed the tiresome division. Without any visible signs of emotion, declarer drew a third round and followed by cashing dummy's 2AK.

An interesting psychological (and ethical?) point now arose. Declarer had followed the club pops closely and knew that dummy's jack, six and five were equals. He called for "a small club, please!" and East (who had not followed the spot cards in the suit so well but should have been able to add up to 13) assumed that South planned to ruff in the hope of bringing down a supposed queen from West's hand. So, perhaps caught on the hop, he played low. Declarer discarded his losing spade and although West ruffed this, there was time for the fifth club to be set up for a heart discard.

Clearly it was legitimate to call for "a small club", but was it akin to coffee-housing? Mind you, East really should have covered the club. If his partner did not hold the missing #J, what possible defence could there be? As you can see, if it goes "small club", 2Q, and South ruffs, West can over-ruff and take his spade trick.

East-West game; dealer North


4Q 7

!A K 8 2

#10 2

2A K J 6 5

West East

4J 10 9 8 6 4K 4 3 2

!9 3 !Q 10 5 4

#J 7 5 3 #9

210 8 2Q 4 3 2


4A 5

!J 7 6

#A K Q 8 6 4

29 7