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The plays the thing

Here is one of many brilliantly played deals from the Gold-medalwinning English women in the Mind Sports Games. London’s Heather Dhondy was the only successful declarer (from ten) in any category – Open, Women or Seniors – to make 4  in their semifinal win v France.

Board Teams
South Deals
None Vul
J 8 5 3
A J 4 3
K 4
10 8 4
K 10 9 6 4 2
9 8 5
9 3
5 2
W   E
K 10
10 7 5 2
A K Q 9 6 3
Q 7 6 2
A Q J 8 6
J 7
West North East South
  Senior   Dhondy
      1 N1
Pass 2 ♣2 3 ♣ 3 3
Pass 4  Pass Pass
  1. 15-17 “balanced”. South prefers 1 NT to 1D, because she does not fancy her rebid after 1D-1S. 2H would describe her shape (and extra values) but such a “reverse” is unwieldily; top players avoid reversing wherever possible. Opening 1 NT with a skewed hand is generally deemed to be the lesser of evils.
  2. Stayman – a request for four-card majors.
  3. Normally, the principle after interference is only to make a bid you were planning to make [planning to bid 2H here, you’d pass over 3C]. Bidding 3H does take the pressure off, however and Dhondy is a very practical player – one of the main reasons underlying her success over the years.

West led top of her doubleton club, East playing out three top clubs. Declarer knew from East’s three-level bid that West was out of clubs. She ruffed with the queen, a necessary first step [and one which ended the hopes of many other declarers: they ruffed low and were overruffed cheaply, later losing to East’s king of trumps].

When West failed to overruff the queen, declarer naturally placed the king of trumps with East. She therefore crossed to the ace of trumps (observing East’s ten) then led a low trump.
East’s king of trumps “beat air” and declarer could win East’s singleton spade switch with the ace, cross to the jack of trumps felling West’s last trump, play the final trump [in case West held five diamonds plus the king of spades – she would be squeezed] then play out winning diamonds. 10 tricks and game made.

Very nice card reading by declarer, judging that West would not have found the brilliancy of smoothly refusing to overruff the queen of trumps at trick three with the king from  Kxx (in which case declarer would have failed, when a finesse of dummy’s jack would see her succeed). Heather knows as much as anyone that you pay off to such brilliances – naturally congratulating the opponents.

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