As you read this I will be in Nashville, Tenn., competing in the Fall North American Championships, hopefully winning but, against a field of many expert teams, the odds are against it. Nonetheless, win or lose, it is an exhilarating challenge to lock horns with the best players in the country.
Todays deal, from the summer championships in Salt Lake City, paints a good picture of the fierce competition among expert players. South opened three clubs, a preemptive bid, and West routinely doubled for takeout. North then made an excellent bid: Six clubs! He did not expect to make this, of course; but he thought his opponents could make a slam in hearts, and the penalty would be less.
And so it proved. East-West make seven hearts as the cards lie, but six is the proper contract. Would you have bid with the East hand? With five hearts to the 10, it would take a lot of courage (and questionable sanity). I agree with the double, surely correct in the long run.
North-South won the bidding, but East-West salvaged some respect in the play. West led the spade king and East, realizing the urgency to limit heart ruffs in dummy, overtook with the ace to lead the club seven. Declarer guessed correctly to finesse and ducked the trick to Norths eight-spot, then a spade was led to West.
West next found a key play: He underled his diamond ace; queen, king; and East returned the club king to Souths ace. Declarer now had to lose another trick. He could not ruff three hearts with only two trumps remaining in dummy. Nor could he establish and use the fifth spade because dummy lacked sufficient entries. Down three.
[Thanks to Scott Cardell, who observed that declarer can always get out for down two. At trick two he must win the club ten and lead a diamond. Later, when West wins the spade queen he will be endplayed.]
At the other table East-West bid to six hearts, but North-South wisely sacrificed in seven clubs (doubled). The defense was less inspired and declarer managed to ruff all his hearts in dummy. He was also down three, so the result was a washout.
© 1988 Richard Pavlicek