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Desperate Measures

Dlr:
Vul:
North
♠ Q J 3
Q 9 8 7 3 2
3
♣ Q 7 4
South
♠ A K 8 7 4
6 4
A 5
♣ 9 6 3 2
West North East South
Pass 1♠
3 3♠ All Pass

People do crazy things in pair games sometimes, all in the quest for tops. This deal occurred in a regionally rated game during the 1991 Summer NABC in Las Vegas, one of the largest NABC ever held — more than 24,221 tables over the 10-day tournament.

What would you do with these cards to earn your place in the sun? No one is vulnerable.

West leads a low diamond to East’s queen. How do you proceed to earn your top?

You can see that you have seven tricks — five spades, the A and a diamond ruff. There is almost no chance that you can avoid three club losers. On the other hand, the opponents have a 10-card diamond fit, the top two hearts plus the possibility of a finesse against the queen, not to mention all the good spots in clubs. It looks like nine tricks in diamonds, possibly more, is a trivial exercise. Therefore, minus 50 or 100 look to be pretty decent scores.

Our hero did not see it that way, however, as he emerged with a plan to make his contract. How, you ask? Think about it a bit more before you read on.

Believe it or not, when East played theQ at trick one, declarer ducked! This set in motion a chain of events that led to a cold top for our hero. The full deal:

Dlr:
West
Vul:
Both
North
♠ Q J 3
Q 9 8 7 3 2
3
♣ Q 7 4
West
♠ 9 5
K
K J 9 8 6 4 2
♣ A J 8
East
♠ 10 6 2
A J 10 5
Q 10 7
♣ K 10 5
South
♠ A K 8 7 4
6 4
A 5
♣ 9 6 3 2

When his Q held, East was certain that West had underled his A and was looking for a ruff. The A was cashed, felling West’s singleton king, and the flustered East gave partner a heart ruff. Now West was convinced that, since East possessed the A, South had to have the ♣K for his opening bid — a thin opener at that, even with the ♣K. Accordingly, West played another diamond. South won the ace, entered dummy with a spade to the queen, ruffed a heart high, then played the ♠A and another spade to dummy to cash the good hearts. That was plus 140 and all of the matchpoints.