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The Legendary Victor

Four declarers out of 13 made 4 on today’s deal from a duplicate at ARBC. One of them was the legendary Victor Silverstone, who won the Gold Cup back in the 1960s and has lifted countless trophies in the decades that followed. A more modest, self-deprecating person you’ll be hard-pressed to find.
Board Pairs
North Deals
N-S Vul
9 8 4 3
A 10 7 4 2
K J 7
J 3
J 10 7 6 3
9 6 2
W   E
A 6
K Q 9 8
Q 9 5 4
10 4 3
Q 10 5 2
6 5
A K 8 2
8 7 5
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
Pass 3 1 Pass 4 
Pass Pass Pass  
  1. A tad short of a 4  splinter bid - trump quality too poor.

Our Glaswegian hero ruffed West’s jack of diamonds lead and led the nine of spades (best), East playing low and the nine losing to West’s jack. West switched to the jack of hearts (best).

It appears declarer must lose two more spades and a heart. However, declarer saw a ray of hope. He led out the three top clubs and, when both opponents followed, continued with the fourth top club, ready to discard his heart loser (regardless of whether East chose to ruff with his ace).

The defence could choose their poison. If East declined to ruff, West ruffing low, declarer could ruff his second heart and lead a second spade, crashing the ace and king. Whereas if East ruffed (with the ace), again the defence would be unable to garner a fourth defensive trick, declarer’s heart having gone. Ten tricks and game made.

There is a winning defence. And I’m not simply talking about West leading a heart (unattractive from  Jx, dummy having opened 1 ). The contract can be defeated on West’s actual jack of diamonds lead — have you spotted how? When declarer leads the nine of spades at trick two (as he must), East needs to fly in with the ace (key play). He should reason that his only chance looking at the powerful dummy is partner holding good spades —  KQx or  KJx — in which case he cannot leave himself with the bare ace. After rising with the ace, East can play any non-diamond and the game will go down.

Switching to the king of hearts looks best. Declarer will win dummy’s ace and may run four rounds of clubs. No good though, for East will ruff the fourth club low. If declarer overruffs, he’ll lose three spade tricks and a heart; if he discards his losing heart, he’ll lose four spade tricks. Declarer may (should) forget about clubs and instead lead a second spade from dummy, hoping the jack is onside. That won’t work either — West winning the jack, cashing the king then enjoying a heart. Down one.

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