"But we had 27 points between us!" explained South, after going down in Three No-trumps on this deal. (Shades of Walter the Walrus, if you remember Victor Mollo's immortal character.) It was true that the cards did not lie kindly, but declarer missed his best chance.

South opened Two No-trumps and North raised to game. West led 2Q against Three No-trumps and declarer held off and won the club continuation. There was only one convenient entry to dummy to lead hearts towards his hand, so he decided to pin his hopes on the spade suit.

At trick three, he led a low spade from hand. West went in with 47 and led another club. After winning, declarer cashed three diamonds and finessed 4Q successfully. However, West showed out on 4A and now, whatever South tried, there were only eight tricks.

The spade finesse was essential, but South underestimated the prospects in hearts. If he leads a low heart towards the 10 at trick three, he makes two heart tricks whenever West holds the jack. This is a better prospect (50 per cent) than to play for a 3-3 break in spades (36 per cent).

Game all; dealer South


45 4 3

!10 3

#A Q 4 2

27 5 4 2

West East

410 7 4K J 9 2

!A J 8 2 !9 6 5

#10 8 6 #J 9 7 3

2Q J 10 9 28 3


4A Q 8 6

!K Q 7 4

#K 5

2A K 6