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The One That Got Away

Bridge players are eager to discuss their great bids or plays that worked and, consequently, the majority of bridge articles reflect brilliant efforts. Today’s hand, however, brings out the other extreme — a “brilliant” disaster.

West, an expert player who shall go nameless, opened with a preemptive bid of four hearts. Freakish hands are difficult to bid accurately, so this was sound strategy. When South balanced with four spades, West persisted to five hearts. It is unusual to preempt and bid again, but West’s hand also is unusual and the bid cannot be faulted. This tempted North into a competitive raise to five spades, and South ended the auction with a stab at slam.

6 S by South

N-S Vul
S 10 6 5 4
H 10
D K 3
C Q J 10 7 6 4
S 3
H A K Q J 8 6 3
D J 10 9 7 5
C
TableS K Q
H 9 7 5 2
D Q 8 4 2
C 8 5 3
S A J 9 8 7 2
H 4
D A 6
C A K 9 2

West
4 H
5 H
All Pass
North
Pass
5 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
4 S
6 S

Obviously, six spades has no chance to make (declarer must lose a heart and a spade), so it appears that West’s tactics were successful. They would have been if West had left well enough alone, but he started thinking:

One heart trick probably would cash; but where would the setting trick come from? South had bid the slam voluntarily (after North’s raise) and it might be unbeatable with normal defense. Therefore, West decided to try a desperate gamble. He led the heart three!

West’s vain hope was that East held the heart 10 and, upon winning the first trick, would switch to a club to give West a ruff. This might have been spectacular on another deal, but not this time. The appearance of dummy was not a pleasant sight (to put it mildly).

After recovering from the disbelief of winning the opening lead, declarer led one round of trumps and quickly claimed his “unmakable” slam, conceding one trump trick.

West sighed.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek