A strong field qualified for the finals of the 1946 South of England Pairs Championship. Alas, I was not among them, missing the cut by a measly 2 matchpoints. Rather than play in some meaningless consolation event, I decided to kibitz the leaders, Boris Shapiro and Maurice Harrison-Gray. Maybe I would learn something. Fortunately they were North-South, so I didnt have to move a chair all day. About midway through the session this deal came up.
I was surprised when Gray (as his friends affectionately called him) rebid notrump without a diamond stopper in lieu of his powerful heart suit, but maybe thats why hes playing and Im watching. Evidently 2 NT showed extra values, as Shapiro continued to game.
West led the 7, ducked to the nine and queen, then Gray led the suit right back: six, eight, jack. This I can understand, but his next play boggles the mind. Gray attacked spades, leading low to the eight-spot. Is he crazy? Hearts is the suit he should be leading; any duffer could see that, and Im far beyond that level.
When West won the 9 he paused to think. Establishing diamonds would give dummy the K, which declarer cannot do on his own, and a spade return might be into the jaws of Souths A-J-8-x. Therefore, West exited safely with a club.
Im not sure what happened next, as the play was too fast to follow. High cards hit the table like a fire storm, and when the smoke cleared, Gray had won the last trick with a deuce. Twelve tricks! How this was possible for someone who would work on spades instead of hearts Ill never know. And how could two expert opponents let him win a deuce? Let me out of here before I lose my mind!
A la Marty McFly, I wasnt really there, of course; but the hand was indeed played by Harrison-Gray exactly as described. He and Shapiro went on to win the event by a wide margin.
My source was the December 1946 Contract Bridge Journal (cover price: one shilling & sixpence) thanks to the English Bridge Union, which has archived their magazines from September 1946 to October 2016, free to all. Thats 71 years! Follow the link and browse through bridge history. Youll also enjoy some laughs, like the ad for the Ronson Fire Prevention Ashtray.
After winning the second diamond, Gray knew he could win at most 12 tricks if both hearts and clubs split, so ducking a spade couldnt lose in a strong field. No expert would cash the A at that point. What it did was rectify the count for a squeeze if one of the suits split; and when West didnt return a spade, Gray was home. Cashing four hearts left East with a stopper, then running clubs produced a double squeeze.
Yes, the 2 won the last trick.
© 2017 Richard Pavlicek