Main   Almost Bridge 7E07 by Richard Pavlicek  

Slam Bid Hospitalizes Eskimo

Today’s deal, another from the North Pole Tournament, caused havoc for many North-South pairs who bid too much with their 31 high-card points. Indeed, Mush Kinook, the top Eskimo player, bid all the way to six notrump and finished down three. Apparently his reindeer opponents celebrated the triumph with too much glee, gouging Mush with an antler in his left ear. Ouch! Mush was rushed by dogsled to Inuit General, where he’s expected to recover.

Most reindeer duplicated the auction of Randolph and Raymond as shown. Randolph, South, opened one club and Raymond bid his diamond suit after West’s overcall. Randolph rebid two notrump to show his spade stopper, and Raymond raised to four notrump — a quantitative slam invitation (not Blackwood), which Randolph correctly refused with his lousy 14 points. A reasonable auction, but even four notrump proved to be too high.

Board 11
None Vul
S 9 8 7
H K 10 4
D A K 9 4
C A K 9
 
West

1 S
Pass
Raymond
North

2 D
4 NT
 
East

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

West cagily led a heart, rather than present declarer with a spade trick, and Randolph had nine sure tricks: three in every suit but spades. The spade ace obviously was offside, so he first tested hearts, then diamonds, to see if either suit broke favorably. No luck. Randolph then cashed his club winners ending in dummy and made one last attempt by leading the spade nine. If East had played low, he would have ducked it to West who remained with A-Q-J-6; but East alertly played the ten, and Randolph was defeated.

A discussion was held later to determine if four notrump could be made, but the reindeer failed to find a solution. Even Rudolph, with his inspired play, could win no more than nine tricks after a heart lead. Can you make it?

This was a job for Master Mouse! The reindeer chipped in for a long-distance phone call to the rodent’s home, and the answer came forthwith: “Yes… your basic holdup. Duck the heart nine completely; win the next and cash all your top diamonds and hearts (pitch a diamond from dummy) on which West discards a spade and two clubs (best). Next cash your clubs ending in dummy, and West must keep either A-Q-J or A-Q-6 in spades. Either way you can force a spade trick in the end.”
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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek