MY team threatened to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in last year’s Gold Cup quarter final. We’d built up a decent lead early on, but our opponents kept chipping away at it. Here is the penultimate board.
West led his fourth highest eight of Diamonds. Declarer, Manchester’s John Holland from the opposing Green team, had to decide whether to play West for Aceking, in which case, he had to rise with dummy’s Queen or Ace/kingKnave, in which case, he had to play low from dummy and run the lead to his ten. There were two Ace/king-knaves and only one Aceking, so he played low.
East won the King and returned a second Diamond. Declarer had played the four, then the ten to hide his two, so West thought his partner might hold King-three-two and inserted the Knave, to retain communication in that scenario. Declarer won dummy’s Queen and cashed three rounds of Clubs, finishing in hand, East discarding a slow Spade.
West was the danger hand, with two long Diamonds, so declarer led a Spade to his seven and dummy’s eight. (The normal play of leading from dummy towards the Queen was too risky as West might win the King.). East won cheaply with the nine and switched to a Heart.
Declarer tried the nine of Hearts, beating West’s ten with dummy’s Ace. Declarer cashed the fourth Club, both defenders throwing a Heart, then led (to) the Ace of Spades, forcing West to make another discard.
West would have done best to discard another Heart, baring his Queen. This would force declarer to guess to lead to the King of Hearts and fell his Queen. In practice, West let go a Diamond. Declarer could now exit with a Diamond, letting West cash two Diamonds, but then, at trick 12, lead from the Queen-eight of Hearts round to declarer’s King-knave. Game made.
Here is the ultimate board.
West led the seven of Clubs and declarer won dummy’s ten and reflected that West almost certainly had to hold all the missing high cards for his double. He therefore rejected the Heart finesse (running the ten, then leading to the Knave), which would have seen him make easily. Instead, he played out Ace-king-queen and a fourth Diamond, West discarding three Spades and a Heart.
East won the fourth Diamond and led a second Club, West winning the Ace and leading a third Club. Declarer won and could but cash the fifth Diamond and bang down the Ace-king of Hearts, hoping the Queen would fall. It didn’t—down one.
Even after playing the top Diamonds hoping for a three-two split, declarer could have succeeded. He shouldn’t have given East his Diamond winner—better to have led the ten of Spades. Let West win the Ace, as he has no good play. He can’t duck a Club or dummy’s Queen wins and if he plays Ace and another Club, communication to his long Clubs is gone.
We returned to our teammates nervously to score up. Fortunately, teammate Tony Forrester had made Three Notrumps on the penultimate board (although we lost a swing on the last). On to the semi-final.