This deal features a magnificent defensive play by Pierre Jais, well-known French expert. The hand was played in Paris in a rubber-bridge game. Jais was West, partnered by Jean Besse. The declarer was Jacques Blaizot.
Playing Canape style (bidding the shorter suit first), Blaizot opened one club. North responded one diamond, a weakness bid in the system, but South nevertheless leaped to four spades after a one-heart overcall by Besse.
Jais led the queen of hearts.
East overtook with the king, cashed the ace and continued with the jack. Declarer trumped with the spade jack, but Jais, spurning the opportunity to overruff, discarded a club.
South naturally assumed
West did not have the queen of spades. So, after first cashing the ace of spades, he led a diamond to the ace, returned a spade and finessed the ten. This lost to the lone queen, and Jais later won a diamond trick with the queen to defeat the contract.
It is hard to fault declarer’s line of play. Of course, he could have made the contract by taking a diamond finesse at trick five, but from his viewpoint, assuming that East had the queen of spades, a diamond finesse could be fatal. If the jack lost to the queen, South would have to trump East’s heart return with the ten or four, and in either case the defense would be sure to score a trump trick sooner or later. The missing Q-9-8-3-2 of spades would be more than declarer could cope with, no matter how they were laid out.
Had Jais overruffed the jack
of spades at trick three, declarer would have had no real choice but to try a diamond finesse eventually and would have made the contract.
Tomorrow: By the sweat of the brow.