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.