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Nerves of Steel

December, 1976 — St. Petersburg Times

This deal occurred in the 1976 Vanderbilt Team Championship. North’s two-club bid was artificial and forcing, and South’s two-diamond response was negative or waiting. The fact that South had a good diamond suit is merely a coincidence, as he could have a worthless hand.

When North bid two notrump, indicating a balanced hand with probably 23-24 high-card points, South decided there would be an excellent chance for slam. Accordingly, South jumped to four clubs — the Gerber convention — to ask North how many aces he had. Four diamonds indicated all four aces, and thereupon South jumped to six diamonds.

6 D by South

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


All Pass
2 C
2 NT
4 D
2 D
4 C
6 D

West was Bill Root of New York City, playing with Richard Pavlicek of Fort Lauderdale. Aware that dummy would come down with four aces, he decided to put declarer under immediate pressure by leading a heart. Declarer went up with the ace.

At trick two declarer led a low club from dummy, and Pavlicek, noted for his nerves of steel, smoothly followed with the five. Declarer very reasonably assumed the king was with West, so he finessed the ten hoping to find East with the jack.

When Root won the club jack, he returned a club through dummy’s A-9. It was next-to-impossible for declarer to guess that Pavlicek’s king was now bare, so he went with the odds and finessed. Down one.

If Pavlicek had taken his king at trick two, declarer would have succeeded with routine play. After drawing trumps, he would ruff the third round of spades, claiming when the queen fell. And even if it did not fall, West would eventually be squeezed in hearts and clubs.


© 1976 Robert M. Woodworth