The Vanderbilt Cup, just completed in Kansas City, Missouri, was anything but a typical North American championship. We were beaten on our own turf! The last team standing after seven days of competition were two Russians (Andrew Gromov, Aleksander Petrunin) and two Poles (Cezary Balicki, Adam Zmudzinski). The foursome played steadily throughout and won several matches with come-from-behind finishes.
This deal contributed heavily to their final-day win. In the closed room, the Russians bid accurately to 6 and made seven after a spade lead. The same contract was reached in the open room, but Balicki (West) drew the right inferences from the North-South bidding and found the killing club lead.
What was so killing about the club lead, you ask? Making 6 is easy with any lead, and seven is always cold by establishing the fifth heart. Unfortunately, this is because you can see all four hands.
Declarer, Sam Lev of NYC, won Easts K with the ace, and immediately cashed the K. Dummy was entered with a spade to cash the A (pitching a club), then a heart was ruffed. Next came the J, ducked of course by Balicki. Would you have taken the finesse? If so, youd be lucky but its a technical error.
Lev knew that if diamonds split normally (2-1) he could succeed anytime East held the K or anytime West held the Q (barring an unlikely overruff on the third round of spades) by establishing the fifth heart. This offered better odds than a 50-50 finesse, so he won the A. Alas, the expert play meant down one.
© 2001 Richard Pavlicek