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Postponing a Decision

  by Tami Humphreys

Hastings Tribune — January 2, 2022

Last year’s Best Played Deal award from the International Bridge Press Association went to Sartaj Hans of Australia, but I thought this runner-up to be more instructive. It was played by Richard Pavlicek and written up by Jing Liu, both from the United States.

In the auction, South’s two-heart rebid was either natural or a balanced hand with 25 or more high-card points. (Pavlicek added a point for his excellent five-card suit.) Two spades inquired, two notrump showed the latter, and six notrump was quantitative. Reaching the laydown six diamonds proved too difficult.

West DealsS K J 10WestNorthEastSouth
Both VulH K 10PassPassPass2 C
D J 8 7 6 5Pass2 DPass2 H
C 8 5 4Pass2 SPass2 NT
S 7 5 3TableS 8 6 4 2Pass6 NTPassPass
H A 5 2H J 9 6 4 3Pass
D 10 3 2D
C Q 9 3 2C J 10 7 6
S A Q 9
H Q 8 7
D A K Q 9 4
6 NT SouthC A K

How did Pavlicek proceed in his contract of six no-trump after West led a safe spade?

Declarer started with 10 top tricks: three spades, five diamonds and two clubs. To gain two heart tricks, there seemed only one chance: that West had the heart jack. However, Pavlicek deftly decided to delay the decision.

Pavlicek cashed his five diamond winners. East discarded three spades, one heart and one club. West pitched a club and a spade. Next declarer took his last two spade tricks, ending in his hand. West threw a heart; East, a heart and a club.

Everyone had five cards left. Pavlicek felt sure that East had begun with five hearts and, because he retained three, that the heart jack was one of them. So, declarer played a heart to the king and continued with the 10, covered by East’s jack. Pavlicek ducked, and when the ace came down he claimed.

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© 2022 Tami Humphreys