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Bridge: Left guessing

THERE are two out-of-the-ordinary features in the deal below - the power of South's hand and the fact that in only a three card ending East was reduced to what appeared to be sheer guesswork.

Love all; dealer South


7 6 3

8 5 2

7 4 3

10 7 6 4


A 5 2

J 7 3

10 9 8

J 9 8 5


Q 9 8 4

10 9 6 4

Q 6 5 2



K J 10



A K Q 2

None of the textbooks give clear guidance on how to treat a hand like South's. He opened Two Clubs and, after the almost inevitable negative response of Two Diamonds, started to think. In the cold light of day a natural Four No-trumps seems best, but carried away by more points than he had ever held before, South rebid Five No-trumps. Wishing his partner luck, North passed and West led the ten of diamonds.

It looked as though the lead had given South his eleventh trick, but two rounds of clubs revealed the bad break. It was useless to lead spades from hand now, so in the hope that something would turn up, declarer played off all of his sure tricks. Then he exited with his last club.

This left West on lead in a position where all four players held just three spades each. He got off lead with a low spade and East contributed his queen. Now South was home for West had to concede the last trick to the ten of spades. East's play of the queen would have been essential if South's spades had been as good as an ace, jack and another, but as the cards lie, he could have defeated the contract by playing low. Then South has to concede the last two tricks. East is still wondering how he could have known.