Pursuits: Bridge

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"WHOM WOULD you blame on this deal?" asked a colleague. On hearing the full story I was not sure which side to incriminate - North-South for bidding a silly slam, or East-West for allowing them to make it (!).

First, a bald account of events at the table. Playing five-card majors, North opened One Diamond and South, sensibly not forcing on his two-suited hand, contented himself with One Heart. North raised to Two Hearts and South plunged into Blackwood to learn that an ace was missing. Relinquishing hopes of a grand slam, he settled for Six Hearts.

West led 2J and, after winning in hand, declarer crossed to #A and led !10. East played low, South contributed a well-chosen queen, and West ducked! The next trump lead had a spectacular outcome and declarer claimed the rest.

Undoubtedly Roman Key Card Blackwood, instead of the steam version, would have helped in the bidding, for 4 No-trumps would have revealed that North held only one key card from the missing #A, !A and !K, and that a slam would depend on a finesse at best.

Certainly East would have been foolish to have played differently but, oddly enough, I have considerable sympathy for West. Allowing !Q to hold was a play that only a competent defender would have found. Can you see what West had in mind? (And, presumably, what declarer hoped that West might have in mind?)

The play in trumps was perfectly consistent with South having started with !KQ9x. If West had won the first round with his ace, declarer would surely follow with a finesse against East's jack on the next round. But if West ducked the queen smoothly, South would be left with a guess...

Game all; dealer North


4Q J 10 5

!10 8 6 4

#A K Q J


West East

49 6 3 48 7 4

!A 2 !K 3

#9 7 6 3 #8 5 4 2

2J 10 9 6 28 4 3 2


4A K 2

!Q J 9 7 5


2A K Q 7