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N-S game; dealer West


4 Q J 8 3

! 9 4

# Q J 10 5

2 K J 5

West East

4 K 4 10 5 2

! AQ J 10 6 5 ! 8 2

# A 9 7 # K 8 3 2

2 10 8 4 2 9 7 6 3


4 A 9 7 6 4

! K 7 3

# 6 4

2 A Q 2

Who was to blame for East-West failing to defeat a vulnerable game on this deal? West opened One Heart and, after two passes, South started with a double. North responded One Spade and, as he might have been weaker in the protective position, South raised to Two Spades.

Now North, who certainly had values in reserve, tried with Three Diamonds and, to protect his king of hearts, South ventured Three No-trumps. With two possible entries, West started with the ace and queen of hearts. Declarer held off until the third round while East discarded the two of spades. Now South had no problems: East would hardly have parted with a spade if he had held the king, and the ace of spades brought the required result.

East's discard was clearly misguided (although he did not expect South to hold five spades) but I think that declarer would have got the suit right anyway.

But what about West? Was she right to start hearts from the top, knowingly conceding one trick? Was there a case for leading the ace of diamonds (giving the impression of holding both ace and king) before starting on hearts? There would be the further bonus that, if the eight and nine of hearts were to be interchanged, a diamond continuation would have brought home the bacon.