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NICOLA SMITH, one of the world's top women players, has been a mainstay of the British team for nearly 30 years. She is only the second player to have received an MBE for services to bridge - the first was Rixi Markus, who died some years ago. For some time now Nicola has been promising me the full diagram of this hand. At last I have it.

The match was against the Netherlands, and the Dutch West became declarer in Seven Hearts after a long and complex auction.

The defensive play employed by Nicola on this hand has been documented, but recognising the situation and reproducing it at the table, without any break in the tempo of play, is not so easy.

Nicola, sitting North, led the jack of spades against the grand slam. West won with the ace and played the king of hearts, on which Nicola Smith played the nine. The effect of this was to create a losing option for declarer.

If Nicola had followed small, declarer would have continued with the queen of hearts, catering for North to hold J x x x, and she would have exposed the 4-1 trump break and taken the finesse against the jack.

The play of the nine, with 10 8 sitting in dummy, created a losing option. If the nine is indeed a singleton, then a trump to the ace followed by the ten of hearts will pick up J x x x in the South hand.

Declarer did then play a low trump, and although Nicola followed with the two, she put on dummy's ace and the grand slam was defeated.

Love all; dealer South


4J 10 8 4

!J 9 6 2

#9 3

2J 6 2

West East

4A K Q 7 46 3

!K Q 4 3 !A 10 8 5

#A Q 7 #K 8 6 4

2K 10 2A Q 5


49 5 2


#J 10 5 2

29 8 7 4 3