Todays deal, No. 17 in the continent-wide Instant Matchpoint game held September 26, brought excitement to the 30,000-odd participants. The wild distribution of the South hand is sometimes ridiculed as the result of a computer gone awry, especially by those who scored poorly; but experts know to expect an occasional hand of this kind. Statistical analyses of millions of computer deals has proved that the laws of probability are upheld.
Holding seven diamonds and five clubs, South decided his best strategy was to open five diamonds (I agree). Even if this happens to be wrong in theory, it might provoke an opponent to bid irrationally. Would you bid five hearts as West? It is tempting with the diamond void, but this West would not be muscled. If he could not bid what he wanted to bid, he simply doubled; come what may. And he was right. Five hearts would be down two or three, and five diamonds cannot be made albeit with thanks to East for producing a trump trick.
West led the heart king and continued with the ace, which South ruffed. Influenced by Wests double and not wanting to waste his club entry to dummy, South next cashed the diamond ace. Ouch! Declarer now had to lose two trump tricks down two, minus 300, and an excellent score for East-West.
Declarer was correct not to lead a club early. If the missing diamonds split 2-1 and spades split 4-4, the contract can be made by establishing dummys fifth spade, provided the club ace is not removed. What declarer overlooked was a safety play to guard against the actual diamond position. Do you see it?
South should lead the diamond jack from hand. If diamonds are 2-1, the ace would catch the lurker. In the existing layout West shows out, exposing East to a later finesse. Declarer still has to go down, but minus 100 would be close to an average score.
© 1990 Richard Pavlicek