Sunday Times

Bridge

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Open­ing lead — five of di­a­monds.

Nowa­days, vir­tu­ally all play­ers use the Stay­man Con­ven­tion to ex­plore for a pos­si­ble 4-4 ma­jor-suit fit af­ter part­ner has opened the bid­ding with one or two notrump.

Thus, North’s two-club bid in to­day’s hand was de­signed to find out whether South had four spades. When South in­di­cated that he did not have four cards in ei­ther ma­jor by bid­ding two di­a­monds, North car­ried on to three notrump.

While Stay­man works well in the great ma­jor­ity of hands, it is not an ab­so­lute bless­ing. It some­times helps the op­po­nents, as it did in this deal where West found the win­ning de­fence.

West led a di­a­mond, and East took the ace and con­tin­ued with the queen. It was here that West made the ex­cel­lent play of over­tak­ing the queen with the king and con­tin­u­ing with the nine to force out de­clarer’s ten.

As a re­sult, South went down one, los­ing four di­a­mond tricks and the ace of clubs. Had West played low on the queen of di­a­monds, de­clarer would have made three notrump.

West’s de­fence, which gave de­clarer a di­a­mond trick he could not have made on his own, was in part at­trib­ut­able to what West had learnt from the bid­ding. Thanks to the Stay­man in­quiry, West knew that South could not col­lect more than eight tricks (four spades, the ten of di­a­monds and at most three hearts) be­fore he would have to lead a club. It was there­fore com­pletely safe to over­take the di­a­mond queen and thereby as­sure de­feat of the con­tract.

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