It is always embarrassing when you let your opponents make a contract that is two off in top tricks. East-West are still arguing about their combined efforts, but how would you apportion the blame on this deal?

West opened 14 and after two passes South bid 1NT, suggesting 11-14 points. West and North passed and East, with a second chance, tried 2!. Rather feebly, West passed this and, even more feebly, passed again when North competed with 2NT. As you can see, East-West would have made ten tricks in a heart contract.

Worse was to come. West led !3 and East, after winning with his king, returned !J to the queen and ace. Next came !9 and, placing his partner with only three cards in the suit, East overtook with his ten and was horrified to see South show out. The hearts were now blocked and when East, not unreasonably, switched to a spade (yes, the defence would still have been all right if he had tried a diamond), declarer had eight tricks.

Apart from West's over-cautious bidding, East missed an inference in the play. If, as he had feared, declarer had started with !Q,x,x then surely he would not have gone up with the queen on the second round of the suit. East could hardly hold both !K and !A and, if West had led from !A,x,x, the suit would have been blocked if declarer had allowed !J to win.

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