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# Mabel Before Christmas

by Richard Pavlicek
##### The opening lead saw my hand hit the table;My thoughts at the time were, “Come on, Mabel!”She handled the play with the greatest of ease,And scored up her contract as swift as a breeze.
###### The defense, I might add, was top of the line;Not one trick was dropped, unmistakably, fine!So here is the deal that made us the winner,And gave Mabel’s eye that perpetual glimmer.

Mabel held the South cards:

 South deals A 9 7 None sober 8 7 A 6 4 3 2 K 5 2 8 6 5 4 3 K Q J 9 2 Q J 10 6 9 5 Q J 8 7 Q J 10 7 9 4 10 2 A K 5 4 3 K 10 Contract? A 8 6 3

What contract did Mabel make?

### Solution

The above question could also be stated, “What is the only game contract that can be made against best defense?” The most obvious candidate is 3 NT. There are seven top tricks, and declarer can establish an eighth trick by playing on hearts or diamonds; but there is no way to come to a ninth trick against best defense. No matter how well you play, 3 NT cannot be made.

What about 4 in the 5-2 trump fit?

Nine tricks are easy — besides the seven top tricks, South can always score two ruffs in hand. Indeed, after an original spade or heart lead, South can succeed by ducking a spade and scoring all three of his small trumps. Alas, this is foiled with a club or diamond lead; declarer cannot survive the attack on his entries. Four hearts cannot be made. Try again.

Five clubs? Or five diamonds? Either seems highly improbable since an additional trick is required, and you’re right that 5 or 5 is out of the question.

Well, what’s the only game left? You guessed it! After a few glasses of wine, Mabel was feeling pretty tipsy and accidentally opened the bidding in the wrong suit. This was our auction:

 South deals A 9 7 West North East South None sober 8 7 Robert Richard Carol Mabel A 6 4 3 2 1 ! K 5 2 Pass 2 Pass 2 8 6 5 4 3 K Q J Pass 4 Pass Pass 9 2 Q J 10 6 Pass 9 5 Q J 8 7 Q J 10 7 9 4 10 2 A K 5 4 3 K 10 4 South A 8 6 3

The game in spades is the only one that makes — in a 3-2 fit! The opening lead was a trump (best) and Mabel won the ace in dummy. She cashed the top cards in each side suit ending in her hand, then ruffed a heart with the 7, ruffed a diamond with the 10, and ruffed a heart with the 9. That’s the first 10 tricks, and the defense was helpless to stop it.

Now, if you believe this story…

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