Duplicate pairs is a variety of the game that is supposed to eliminate the luck element. After all, everybody plays exactly the same hands. It does not always work out like this, as partner and I found out to our cost on this deal.

Our auction could hardly be faulted. My partner, as North, opened One No-trump (12-14 points) and East overcalled with Two Spades. This set me no problems and I bid Three Diamonds, forcing, for we were playing the Lebensohl convention. Had I merely wanted to contest with Three of a suit, I would have been able to bid Two No-trumps, requesting partner to bid Three Clubs which I would either pass or convert to Three of my suit, now non-forcing.

Partner might have supported diamonds immediately but, with a double guard in spades, bid Three No-trumps. I advanced with Four Clubs and, after hearing diamond preference, ascertained that the one key card was missing and settled for Six Diamonds.

I expect you can guess how the play went. West, void in his partner's suit, led the jack of clubs. East ruffed, returned a spade, and the defenders took the first five tricks. Finally I was able to claim, explaining that I was drawing trumps, but neither opponent, even after a close search, had any left.

The real trouble was that most pairs in the event were playing a strong no-trump and five-card majors. As a result, it was North who opened One Diamond and became declarer. Now the defenders, after a spade lead, could make only four of their trumps.