It is not often that Martin Hoffman is up-staged at the bridge table, but it happened on this deal from a Dutch tournament.

Love all; dealer East North 4 Q 10 9 5 4

! J 4

pounds 8

2 A 9 8 7 6

West East 4 J 8 7 2 4 none ! 6 5 ! Q 9 8 7

pounds K 10 4 3 pounds A J 9 7 5

2 J 5 2 2 K Q 4 3

South 4 A K 6 3

! A K 10 3 2

pounds Q 6 2

2 10

East opened One Diamond and Hoffman, sitting South, doubled. West bid One Spade and, although a double would seem the natural action (suggesting some values and at least four spades), North chose to pass. This led to the rather more delicate contract of Four Hearts instead of Four Spades which would have been a relatively easy affair.

West decided to lead a trump and dummy's Jack was covered by the Queen. At his usual lightning speed, Hoffman decided (correctly) that the trumps were breaking 4-2 and, in order to keep control, he would do better to duck this trick. You can see what happens if instead he plays three rounds of trumps: when East ruffs a Spade, declarer is wide open in Diamonds.

It would have been all too easy for East to play back a passive trump - then South has 10 tricks. However, on being allowed to win with his Queen of Hearts, East smartly returned the Nine of Diamonds. West won and, keeping up the good work, gave his partner a Spade ruff.

Now all that remained for East to do was switch back the attack to trumps. With no longer the chance of ruffing a Diamond on the table and with one fewer winners, South was now restricted to only nine tricks.