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U.S. Tops Norway

The 2001 World Bridge Championship held in Paris last month (originally scheduled for Bali, Indonesia but moved for travel-safety considerations) produced one of the greatest come-from-behind finishes in recent history. In the final match the United States trailed Norway by 79 IMPs at the halfway mark, then put on a powerful surge to even the match after three quarters and eventually win. This deal certainly helped.

3 NT by South

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

West

Pass
North

3 NT
East
Pass
All Pass
South
1 NT

Both tables reached the same contract (not by the bidding shown, which is the recommended standard sequence) and both Wests led a diamond. The Norwegian declarer took the losing heart finesse at trick two, then a club was returned. Declarer now had only seven tricks, and there was no way to establish more without giving up the lead in spades — down one.

At the other table Lew Stansby was declarer for the U.S., and at trick two he made the superior play of a low spade to the queen, as West ducked. Spades were cleared, and West accurately shifted to a club: low, king, 10. On the next club West unblocked the queen (else the enemy club suit would be blocked).

Stansby read the situation perfectly. He cashed his last spade, crossed to dummy in diamonds, and led a club. East could take his two club winners, but the forced heart return gave declarer his ninth trick.

Did you see how the contract could be defeated? On the first club lead, East must play the jack (not the king), after which there is no need for West to unblock his queen on the next round. If declarer then goes for the endplay, West can win the third club to foil it.

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© 2001 Richard Pavlicek