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North-South game; dealer South

North

4Q 2

!K J 10 5 2

#5 2

25 4 3 2

West East

4A 10 8 6 49 7 4 3

!Q 8 7 6 3 !4

#J 8 4 #A K 10 7 6

29 2Q 8 6

South

4K J 5

!A 9

#Q 9 3

2A K J 10 7

This was a deal from the first round of this year's Macallan Invitation Pairs and featured the holders, Meckstroth and Rodwell of the United States, against the British women Liz McGowan and Heather Dhondy. As only simple (and intelligible!) systems were allowed, it is arguable that the Americans, who normally play a highly complex Strong Club system, were handicapped. Indeed, they finished only in 12th place out of the 16 competing pairs. However, it was not the bidding that let them down here.

As South, Meckstroth opened Two No-trumps - clearly allowing himself a couple of points for his play! - and North transferred to hearts with Three Diamonds. As East, Liz McGowan doubled to suggest a lead and, after two passes, North went back to Three No-trumps against which West led #4.

McGowan won deceptively with her ace on which declarer dropped the nine - a good play, in case East had indeed false-carded with both ace and king, and might be tempted into playing South for the doubleton queen. East, however, bearing in mind that declarer also appeared short in hearts, stolidly returned #7 and South was left with a horrid guess. To play low would be right if West had started with three diamonds headed by the king (when the suit is blocked); to play the queen would clearly be right as the cards lay. His decision to play low proved a disaster and led to two off.

As Liz said to me afterwards: "I couldn't believe that he would fall for an old trick like that!" Well, often the old ones are the best. It set the British women off to a good start and they went on to win the match.

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