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Elusive Slam Challenges Entrants

The Royal Viking Pairs was held Tuesday evening at about 600 sites in North America. Each pair played 24 out of 36 deals, which were taken from a European tournament held over 10 years ago — hence, the deals would be unknown to American players (or surely forgotten in the rare case of multinational players). The old results were tabulated to obtain “instant matchpoint” scores.

At this writing (Tuesday afternoon) I cannot report any actual results — my time machine is on the fritz — but today’s deal (No. 26 in the booklet) seemed particularly challenging. I suspect that a great majority of pairs will reach three notrump; but some will judge well (translation: overbid) to reach six clubs and play skillfully to make it.

6 C S K J 10 4 3
H 9
D A 10 3
C A 10 8 3
Both Vul

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass


North
1 S
3 C
4 C
5 D


East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass


South
2 C
3 D
4 H
6 C
S A Q 9 8 5
H Q 8
D J 8 5 4
C 7 4
Table S 7 2
H K J 10 4 3 2
D 6 2
C J 9 6
Lead: C 4 S 6
H A 7 6 5
D K Q 9 7
C K Q 5 2

After North’s one-spade opening, South should respond two clubs to conserve bidding space. North happily raises to three clubs, and South bids three diamonds to show the concentration of strength. North goes back to four clubs, and South bids four hearts — a control-bid to show the ace. North returns the favor with five diamonds, and South is driven by momentum to six clubs.

West does best to lead a trump, which South wins in hand to lead his singleton spade; West takes the ace and returns another trump. Declarer has several reasonable plays at this point. The best is to win the ace of clubs; ace of hearts; ruff a heart; ruff a spade; ruff a heart; and lead the diamond 10 to the king. The last is an effort to unblock in case a subsequent diamond finesse is necessary (immaterial as the cards lie).

Declarer is not home yet, but watch what happens when he draws the last trump. West is squeezed! He cannot keep a stopper in both spades and diamonds, so declarer wins the rest of the tricks.

The play is more challenging if West does not win the ace of spades. Six clubs still can be made, but declarer must guess well to read the end position.

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© 9-24-1989 Richard Pavlicek