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Last Train

During 1998 and 1999, I played more Bridge States-side than in Britain, and with some success. My team (with partner Rita Shugart, and team-mates Tony Forrester and talented Norwegian Geir Helgemo) won the prestigious Reisinger both years. This made Tony and I the first Englishmen to win an American “Major”.

The 10-team final in Boston in 1999 saw one of the oh-so-rare days, where everything Rita and I did turned to gold. I recall holding: ♠ A75,  A10864,  K93, ♣ 64, and hearing the (unopposed) auction go: 1 NT-2 ♣(Stayman)-2 ♠-3 NT. With both opponents having advertised a major suit, I led the four of clubs! This deceptive ruse worked like a charm, declarer misplaying the entire hand, thinking I held good clubs.

Funnily enough though, the deal I remember most from that USA-dominated period occurred during training match. East, Michael Rosenberg, winner of the 1998 Par Contest and true cardplay magician, said that he had never defended a hand where he had been so sure the contract would fail, yet it did not. Praise indeed. Here it is:

South Deals
None Vul
Q 4 2
A K J 6 4 2
A 8 4
7 3
J 10 9 8 6 2
J 7 6 3 2
W   E
A J 9 7
Q 10 8
K 7 4
Q 10 9
K 10 8 6 5 3
9 5
A Q 3
K 5
West North East South
      1 ♠
Pass 2  Pass 2 ♠
Pass 4 1 Pass 4 2
Pass 4 NT3 Pass 5 4
Pass 6 ♠ Pass Pass
  1. Splinter Bid, showing spade support,
    diamond shortage, and slam interest.
  2. “Last Train” (to Clarkesville), a highly
    useful modern treatment, whereby the
    “bid-in-the-middle” (i.e. the only bid
    between sign-off and slam-advance) says,
    “I’m interested in slam, but cannot commit
    beyond game”. It says nothing about the
    suit actually bid.
  3. Roman Key Card Blackwood.
  4. Two of the “five aces”, where the king
    of trumps (here, spades) counts as an ace;
    but no queen of trumps


West, Zia Mahmood, found the normal (but not best) opening lead of the jack of diamonds, which ran to my queen. I led a trump to the queen, to discover the bad newsgood news. The bad news was that trumps split 4-0, the good news was that it was East, finessable, with the four.

East beat the queen with the ace, and returned a second diamond. I could not ruff a diamond, or I would be unable to pick up **********************

I crossed to a top heart, and played a trump to East’s seven and my eight. I then crossed to the other top heart, and led a third heart, ruffing out East’s queen. I next crossed to the ace of clubs and led a winning heart. East, helpless, ruffed, but I could now overruff, ruff a diamond, lead another heart, ruffed and overruffed, and table my last trump and the king of clubs. Slam made -there was no defence.

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