"How can you play like that?" squeaked North (an excitable player) at the end of this deal. It seemed an odd comment, for the partnership had just won a substantial rubber, but I am sure the keen analysts among our readers will see what dummy meant.

South opened One Spade and, as partnerships at rubber bridge do not have sophisticated methods, the bidding ended in Six Spades with neither player sure that he was neither too high, nor missing a lay-down grand slam. West led 2Q and, with the complete duplication of distribution, it seemed that the only worry was a 3-0 trump break. At first sight it was an even- money guess whether to play 4K or 4A first and, after the apparently lucky start of 4K, South was soon able to claim.

There was, however, a good reason for preferring the ace. Even if West proves to hold 4Q,8,2, declarer can still get home if he holds !K as well. See how the play goes when East shows out on 4A: declarer cashes 4K and eliminates clubs and diamonds, ending in hand. He follows with a finesse of !J and then throws West in with his queen of trumps to lead away from !K or concede a ruff and discard. You can see North's point now: still the basic 50 per cent chance of a random guess, but extra possibilities as well.

Game all; dealer South


4A 10 6 5 4

!A J 4

#K 8 2

2A 3

West East

4Q 8 2 4none

!K 9 7 !10 6 5 3

#10 7 6 #J 9 4 3

2Q J 10 8 29 7 6 4 2


4K J 9 7 3

!Q 8 2

#A Q 5

2K 5