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Slam Well Played but Beatable

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is from last month’s North American Championships in Nashville, Tenn. An expert declarer brought home his ambitious slam contract through accurate card reading.

6 NT South
None Vul
S J 8 4
D A 9 5 3
C Q J 7 6


2 C
4 NT

1 C
3 NT
6 NT
S Q 10 2
H J 8 5 2
D 10 7
C 10 9 8 3
TableS A 9 6 3
H 7 6 3
D J 8 4 2
C 4 2

Lead: C 10
S K 7 5
H K 10 9 4
D K Q 6
C A K 5

South was obliged to open one club with 18, playing 15-17 notrumps. North’s two-club response was an “inverted minor raise,” a special treatment in which a single raise shows 10 points or more and is forcing. (In this method a jump to three clubs would show a weak hand.)

South jumped to three notrump to show 18-19 points, and North bid four notrump (not Blackwood) to invite slam. South probably should have passed this, but he liked his hand — so what else is new? — and continued to six notrump.

West made a safe lead with the club 10, and South counted 10 top tricks: four clubs, three diamonds and three hearts. Declarer saw three chances for additional tricks: (1) The spade ace onside (then the king could be established), (2) diamonds dividing three-three, or (3) the heart jack falling under the A-K-Q.

Declarer won the club king, then cashed dummy’s ace and queen of hearts. It seemed too much of a long shot for chances (2) and (3) to materialize, so he led the spade four; three, king, deuce… and a sigh of relief from South. So far, so good.

Declarer cashed the club ace and led a club to the jack as East threw a heart. On the last club winner, East and South both discarded spades. A diamond was led to the king, then the heart king was cashed as North and East threw spades. Next came the diamond queen, on which West dropped the 10, an ominous sight.

Declarer then backed his card-reading judgment that East protected diamonds and exited with a spade. East perforce won the ace and had to concede the last two diamond tricks to dummy. Well played, although East could have (should have) avoided the endplay by discarding the spade ace to keep a low spade.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek