Click to follow
The most promising line of play in Three No-trumps on this deal did not absolutely guarantee the contract, but as it involved surrendering an apparently unnecessary trick at an early stage, it means that it was completely overlooked by declarer in a recent match.

South opened One No-trump (15-17 points) and, after a Stayman enquiry by North, ended in Three No-trumps. A spade lead would have been West's safest choice, but in practice he selected the three of clubs, and declarer looked to be off to a good start when he won the first trick with his 10.

Despite this bonus (and a combined 27 points), it was not easy to see how best to develop the hand. One declarer crossed to the king of diamonds and finessed the jack to the queen. West shifted to a spade, dummy played low, and East won with his queen. A club came back, losing to the queen, and now another spade completely tied up South's communications. He could still have got home by end-playing West, but he misread the position and failed by one trick.

At the other table, South found a very neat and practical shot: after winning with the 10 of clubs, he returned the jack immediately. West won and tried a spade but now, after East had taken his queen, the difference was that dummy still had a diamond entry after the spades had been unblocked.

There was still a little guesswork to do before the ninth trick could be developed, but the second South had got off to a considerably better start than his counterpart.