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An Icelandic Saga

I had not been to the Reykjavik Bridge Festival for over a decade. As I sat opposite the legendary, charming and incredibly talented Zia Mahmood, against the delightful and very competent Nordic opponents, with delicious exotic sushi to look forward to, I wondered why not.

Zia and I were pleased to win the pairs and we enjoyed some lucky moments. Here (from the Teams) was one of our classic rose-tinted grand slams (temperamentally both of us prefer to go down in a non making grand slam than to miss a making one: a dangerous combination for a partnership).

South Deals
None Vul
A Q 9 7 5
9 7
A K J 10 6
8 4 2
J 10 9 7 6
Q 5 3
9 3
W   E
K 8 5 3
K 6 4 2
Q 8 5 2
K J 6 3
A Q 4
A J 10 8
7 4
West North East South
Pass 2 N1 Pass 3 N2
Pass 4 N3 Pass 5 4
Pass 7 5 Pass Pass
  1. Jacoby a game forcing spade raise
  2. 15-19 Balanced
  3. Roman Keycard Blackwood
  4. Zero or three of "five Aces" (including the trump king  K as an ace)
  5. Hoping partner holds  Q or , failing that a doubleton club.

You are lucky to receive the J opening lead - where the standard opening lead v a grand slam of a trump (on grounds of safety) would have given you a tougher ride. You win  Q, cash K......

....And go down (unless you guess to take the ruffing finesse in clubs). For you are no longer able to ruff two clubs in hand without West being able to overruff.

The technical line - catering to East having a singleton  10 is to start spades by leading to the ace. When East's  10 appears, stop playing spades , cash  AK, ruff a club with J, cash A (throwing a diamond) and cash  A, ruff a red card, ruff a fourth club with  K, cross to  Q9 drawing West's trumps and enjoy the fifth club. Grand slam made.

If two small spades had appeared on the first round, draw a second trump (in hand). If both follow, you are home (playing  AK) unless East has a singleton club

If West discards on the second spade cash  AK and ruff two clubs in hand (overruffing East). You are less well placed if West has three spades and might as well draw his last trump, then cash the  AK and guess whether or not to take the ruffing finesse.

On the indicated opening trump lead, rise with the ace (felling the ten). Best is now the combination line of  AK then, if no queen appears (if it does problems solved), take the heart finesse (low to the queen). You'll also need some good news in spades/clubs.

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