Game all; dealer North


4A 8 7 4


#8 5

2A K 7 6 5 2

West East

45 2 4J 9 6

!Q 9 8 2 !K 10 6 4 3

#A 7 3 #K J 6 2

2Q J 10 4 29


4K Q 10 3

!A J 5

#Q 10 9 4

28 3

In any activity there comes a moment when you realise that you have done a bad thing. Sometimes this is almost instantaneous; the tiny click followed by the confident appeal as you wave your bat fruitlessly at a rising ball outside the off (sometimes you have to wait a few seconds) or waiting for the crash of timber as your tee shot goes wildly astray. In bridge, you often have to wait a little before appreciating what you have done.

North opened One Club, South responded One Spade, and North raised to Two. South tried Three No-trumps, but North reverted to spades. West led 2Q against Four Spades and the fall of East's nine under the King looked ominous, for any failure to draw trumps would surely lead to a ruff. So declarer played off three rounds of spades, ending in hand.

Next, with quiet confidence, he led 28. His idea was neat enough: a loser- on-loser play. After West had covered with 210, he would win in dummy and lead 27, discarding a loser. West would be welcome to his 2J but now the remaining clubs would be established. Ten tricks would be assured and, indeed, 11 if the defenders were not quick to cash their diamonds.

Now came the moment of truth. West, playing shrewdly, did not cover 28! True, declarer could now make three club tricks without loss, but he could no longer bring in the rest of the suit and, as a result, had to be content with nine tricks. South's blunder, of course, lay in his failure to unblock with 28 at trick one. If he had left himself with 23 instead of 28, it would no longer matter whether West had split his remaining honours or not.