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It’s the Moves That Challenge

February 19, 1989 — New York Times

Many of the technical moves in card play seem to have straightforward parameters until examined closely. Then they begin to blur around the edges. A finesse is difficult to define satisfactorily. An endplay can occur on the first trick. A squeeze can operate in a single suit, and the declarer can be the victim.

Even a discard can be bizarre. It is usually defined as the play of a card which is not in the suit led nor a trump, but it is often necessary to “discard” a trump, with no hope or intention of winning the trick. The world record for trump discarding in practical play may belong to West in the diagrammed deal from the 1988 Spingold Knockout Teams played in Salt Lake City at the beginning of August.

4 H by South

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

West
Pavlicek

Pass
North

1 S
4 H
East
Root
3 D
All Pass
South
Kahn
3 H

The declarer in four hearts was Allen Kahn of Manhattan NH, who reports that he was the victim of brilliant defense by the East-West players, Bill Root of Boca Raton FL and Richard Pavlicek of Fort Lauderdale FL. They have been one of the best American partnerships in this decade, with a string of successes in national championships.

West, Pavlicek, had no reason to know that the lead of the club king would be effective and led his partner’s diamond suit. South had four tricks in the side suits and knew that he needed, in one way or another, to score six trump tricks. This rated to be easy if East held the queen or nine of trumps, and even if trumps were banked in the West hand there were good endplay chances.

Kahn took the diamond ace and followed with two spade winners and a spade ruff. He cashed the diamond king and played a third round on which Pavlicek discarded his winning spade, preparing for an overruff. A ruff in dummy left this position:

S 8 5
H K
D
C J 7 5 4
S
H Q 9 6 5 4
D
C K 8
TableS
H 2
D Q 10 9
C A Q 6
S
H A J 10 8
D 7
C 10 9

Another spade was led and East ruffed with the heart deuce, a harmless move, in order to clarify the trump situation for his partner. South overruffed with the trump ace, and Pavlicek “discarded” the trump four. Now South ruffed his remaining diamond, and Pavlicek made his second trump discard by throwing the five.

Now South ruffed dummy’s last spade with the heart 10 and Pavlicek seized the opportunity for his third trump discard, the six. This series of plays frustrated South’s efforts, for East was able to take two club tricks and have the lead at the 12th trick. West’s queen-nine of hearts was poised over South’s jack-eight to take the last two tricks and defeat the game. If Pavlicek had missed either of the first two trump “discards” he would eventually have been endplayed to give declarer his 10th trick. The third “discard” was optional; it simply added a touch of elegance to a brilliant effort.

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© 1989 Alan Truscott