You can achieve bottom scores in pairs competitions in a wide variety of ways as I have discovered painfully over the years. Whether you have any sympathy for me as East on this deal is another matter. At least my partner had the grace to mutter "Good try!" as we recorded our zero.

South opened One Club, North raised to Three Clubs, and South explored (slightly deceptively) with Three Diamonds. Lacking a guard in either major, North returned to Clubs and South went on to game. Most pairs were in Three No-trumps with eight top tricks and a choice of finesses for the ninth - a problem best solved by leading 4J from dummy and, if that is not covered, going up with the ace and falling back on the diamonds. Not unnaturally, this worked when the 4J brought the king from East.

Against Five Clubs, however, partner led !Q. Declarer won, drew trumps, and led 44 from dummy with a cunning look. Was it possible, I wondered, for South to have started with something like

4Q,10,9,x !A

#A,Q,x 2K,10,8,7,3? Now the winning defence for East is to go in with 4K and push a diamond through while partner still has 4A. So I tried it and, as a result, our declarer was the only one to score more than 600 points when he now had an easy overtrick. Better luck next time, perhaps.

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