Signal failure leads to disaster

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The Independent Online
One of the arguments that will never be settled is whether, in defence, it is more important to signal length or encouragement/discouragement. A number of compromises have been suggested but clearly East-West were not on the same wavelength on this deal.

Science was at work in the bidding when South's opening bid of 14 was greeted with a response of 2NT - agreeing spades and forcing to game. South's next bid of 34 showed an interest in progress beyond game (a bid of 44 would have been the sign-off) but denied any singleton.

North cue-bid 4!, and Roman Key Card Blackwood revealed that an ace was missing so South settled for Six Spades. West led !J against the slam and dummy was a slight disappointment to declarer. It looked as though everything would depend on which defender held the ace of clubs.

South found a neat way to improve his chances. East had followed to the opening lead with !2 which showed lack of interest rather than length so, after drawing trumps and eliminating diamonds, declarer led the !Q to dummy's ace (cunningly concealing his seven) before trying a club to his king.

Now West had a problem. If South (as advertised) held only two hearts and his clubs were as good as K Q 10, it would be necessary to hold off. Judging this to be the position, West followed with 92, a play that failed to meet with his partner's approval after declarer had made a claim.