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Poolside tales

My friend Zia Mahmood was irrepressible at the World Championships in Chennai, leading the USA 1 Seniors to victory. We kept bumping into each other at the swimming pool – I need my exercise at these long events – where I would learn of his derring-dos. Here is a classic one from USA 1 versus Canada.

South Deals
N-S Vul
K Q 5 2
K J 3
Q 9 6
9 8 7
10 9 7 6
8 7 3 2
K 6 5 4
W   E
J 4 3
10 9 6 5
A K 10 5 4
A 8
A Q 8 7 2
A Q J 10 3
West North East South
Pass 1  2 1 3 
4 2 4  Pass 4 NT3
Pass 5 4 Pass 6 
All pass      
  1. Zia loves to make frisky bids for the lead. He’ll stomach the occasional large penalty to attract the lead he wants.
  2. Michael Rosenberg jams the bidding.
  3. Roman Key Card Blackwood.
  4. One (or four) of “five aces” (incl.  K).

6  was not a bad slam – needing little more than East to hold the king of clubs. Indeed where East had not made the lead-directing 2  bid, 6  is rather good; for if you escape the opening diamond lead, you can shed your singleton diamond on dummy’s spades (after drawing trumps) and afford to give up to the king of clubs.

At several tables 6  did go down – two. A diamond to East’s king was followed by a switch to the singleton club. With a sinking feeling, declarer finessed – his only chance – West winning the king and leading a second club. Ruffed and down two.

Typically Zia was not content with a mere two trick set of NorthSouth’s freely bid slam. He won the diamond lead with the ace and at trick two returned a small diamond (key play).

The unsuspecting declarer naturally ruffed the diamond. He drew trumps in four rounds (meaning that he held no more). He then cashed three rounds of spades, discarding the ten of clubs, then led and (when East followed low) passed the nine of clubs.

West won the king of clubs and the defence scored the remaining three tricks. West led over a third diamond, East beating the queen with the king and cashing two more diamonds. Down four and EW +400.

Declarer was only really culpable for the fourth undertrick. He has seen East follow to three spades and four hearts. Even Zia would have to have five diamonds for the 2  bid. That leaves room for just one club which, when he led dummy’s nine of clubs, he saw. He should have spurned the finesse and settled for down three.

“Great defence Zed”, I said.
“I had to”, he replied, “otherwise Michael Rosenberg would have killed me”. I swam another length.

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