Sometimes it seems as though the top players can see through the backs of the cards. On this deal from a national board-a-match event, the East player must have considered checking the deck he was playing with against the formidable Zia Mahmood, who was playing South.
A spade slam would have been a heavy favorite, but that didn’t concern Zia. In board-a-match scoring, it’s important only to beat the other table. He had to assume that the slam was missed there as well. He had to try to win the board in the play.
West found the best lead – a low diamond – taking away an important entry to Zia’s hand. He played low from dummy and took the ♦9 with the ace. A heart went to dummy’s ace and a spade was played to the jack in Zia’s hand.
Zia stopped to think about the entire deal. He finally decided that East, for his bidding, was probably more distributional than 5-5 in the red suits and therefore was likely to be void in clubs. On that basis, he cashed the ♠A, picking up the outstanding trumps, and put the ♣8 on the table.
Be honest, would you have found the defense of covering with the ♣10? Neither did West, and Zia let the 8 ride! Had West covered, Zia would have been stuck in dummy, able to get back to hand only by overtaking dummy’s last trump, which was needed to ruff a heart. He would have had to settle for 12 tricks.
As it was, when the ♣8 held, Zia was still in hand and could repeat the club finesse, discard his losing diamond and ruff the losing heart. Making 13 tricks.
At the other table, Zia’s teammates did not find the diamond lead, starting a heart instead, and declarer had an easy road to all the tricks. For Zia, it was a well-earned push.
The full deal: