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Master at Work

Dlr:
West
Vul:
Both
North
♠ A K 6 4 3
J 8 4
A Q J
♣ A 5
South
♠ Q 9
K 6 5
10 9 7 5 4
♣ Q J 10
West North East South
1♠ Pass 1NT
Pass 3NT All Pass

This deal from the Omar Sharif Individual in 1990 shows Zia Mahmood, one of the world’s great players, in fine form. Zia was South. See if you can match his play.

West leads the 10, which passes around to your king. At trick two, you play a diamond to dummy’s jack, which holds. Now what? Consider your next play carefully before reading on.

Click for Solution

Zia played as you did through the first two tricks — and most of the field in the tournament next played the A and the Q, which would work if the diamond suit had been 3-2.

Zia looked deeper into the deal. What would happen if diamonds were 4-1? West could hold up the king and declarer would take only eight tricks unless spades were 3-3, which they weren’t.

So Zia led the Q at trick three instead of the ace — and it didn’t matter what West did. If he held off, Zia would switch to spades, giving up a trick in the suit to make his contract with four spade tricks, three diamonds, one heart and one club.

West actually won the K and switched to a club, but Zia still had his eye on the ball. He won the ♣A, unblocked the ;A, came to hand with the ♠Q and made his contract with four diamonds, three spades, the K and the ♣A. The full deal:

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