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Purest Test

Despite this fairy-tale start to my career in the Open game, I still felt that I really shouldn’t be there, right at the top. I made mistakes, surely at a more basic level than other world experts.

The 1990 Par Contest, the first such event for many decades and perhaps the purest test of ability, somewhat changed my perception. There are few more daunting prospects for a Bridge player, than sitting behind a computer terminal (remember this was before the computer/internet era), whilst playing some of the trickiest declarer-play problems imaginable. Make a wrong move, and you will hear a frightening, point deducting, and morale-shattering bleep. Three bleeps per problem and you score no points.

I finished fifth (out of 20 or so invited world experts), a place above partner Tony Forrester, and was only beaten by “singledummy” specialists. Here is Problem 5 out of 12, one of the four or five I solved completely correctly (i.e. bleep-free). East wins the trump lead with the ace, and returns a second trump, inconveniently preventing you from ruffing three spades in dummy.

South Deals
None Vul
K 9 7 4
Q J 5 4
7 6 5 4
K Q 5
Q J 8 6 3 2
A 8 3
10 9 7 6
A 10 5
10 9 7 6
A 2
A 8 4 3 2
K 2
K Q J 10 9 8
   1 ♣
1 2 ♣2 2 ♠
4 DblPass4 ♠
Pass5 ♣PassPass
 The auction, opening lead, and dummy are given.
You have to make your contract.

Hearts appear 6-3 on the bidding. You must hope that East has the ace, which can be ruffed out on the third-round of the suit, and so promote the king. Dummy entries are very short, however.

The key play is to lead the two of diamonds at Trick Three. This puts West in a fork: unable to rise with the ace (and give you three diamond tricks), he must play low. You win dummy’s jack, then ruff a heart, cash the ace of spades, ruff a second spade, ruff a second heart, ruff a third spade, and ruff a third heart (bringing down East’s ace).

At Trick Nine you lead the king of diamonds, and again West is forked. If he wins the ace, he has to lead a red card, giving access to dummy’s stranded king of hearts and queen of diamonds: away go declarer’s two remaining spades and the game is made.

However West ducking the king of diamonds is no better, for now you switch tacks, giving up the fourth spade to East, ruffing the diamond return, and cashing the now-established fifth spade. Either way: 11 tricks and game made.

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