One of the fascinations of bridge is that no matter how proficient we become at this game, there are so many variations to the play of the cards that it is certain that we will never become perfect. One of the great players went wrong defending with the West cards.
East’s pre-empt at the four level was somewhat strange, but it was made with vulnerability in mind. It achieved its purpose when South elected to overcall four spades rather than make a takeout double, which resulted in missing the superior heart contract. Because his partner might have had a far better hand, North cannot be blamed for trying for slam.
West led his singleton club and won in the dummy. Fearing a bad trump break, declarer crossed to his hand with the ace of hearts and led a spade to the nine. When this held, he cashed the queen. On these two tricks, East followed first with six, and then with the five of trump. This told his partner that he had three trump and could ruff something.
Locked in dummy after the second round of trump, declarer tried to get to his hand by leading a diamond to the king. West took his ace and had to decide which of the red suits his partner could ruff. Because South had not made a takeout double, West decided to play him for three cards in both red suits, and East for a singleton diamond and a doubleton heart. He returned the Jack of diamonds. Dummy won the queen, and declarer entered his hand with a diamond ruff and drew the remaining trump and finessed the queen of hearts from West to make an overtrick.
West did not have to guess which suit his partner could ruff. He could have made a play that would not have catered to any distribution. He should have returned the queen of hearts. Even if East had a doubleton heart, declarer would be locked in dummy. If he tried to come off the dummy with a red suit, East would ruff and cash his winning club, or, if declarer led a club, West could trump his partner’s trick and return either red suit, allowing East to ruff and set the contract.
Donna Swan is a resident of Longboat Key, an ardent bridge player and an American Contract Bridge League certified director who plays “for the fun of it.”