This deal, Board 61 of the finals of the U.S. Team Trials, caused quite a swing last month in Memphis. The same treacherous contract was reached at both tables after identical auctions.
As South, what would you do over 4 ? The cowardly route is to pass (4 is down one with accurate defense); but with 6-5 shape it feels right to bid something. Both Souths concluded that 4 was a better guess than 5 , so the tenuous game was reached.
Both West players led the K, but then the play diverged. At one table, East signaled with the 10 and West continued hearts. Declarer ruffed in dummy (pitching the J) and cashed the A. The contract could now be made with a first-round diamond finesse, but declarer crossed to the A and led the J to force out the queen. Declarer was tapped with another heart, and when the smoke cleared he was down three.
At the other table, East signaled with the 2 at trick one, and West shifted to a club. Alas, East thought this was a singleton, so he won the ace and returned a club. Declarer accepted the free finesse (thank you), cashed the A-K, crossed to the A and forced out the Q. The only way East could kill dummys clubs was to return the Q, but this surrenders the whole diamond suit. Making 4 for a 14-IMP swing.
It is curious that neither West shifted to the singleton diamond at trick two, but this would be ineffective, too. Declarer wins the K (best to avoid guessing the diamond break when leading from dummy), unblocks the A-K, finesses the J and drives out the Q; making easily.
The club shift is the only defense that works legitimately; however, after winning the A, East must revert to hearts. Declarer takes the tap in hand to have any chance, but now he cannot draw trumps without losing control; down one at least.
© 2012 Richard Pavlicek