We return to Monaco for the second Winter Games— a welcome addition to the international schedule. This week’s pair of deals emphasises yet again that, even at the top level, winning is more about making fewer mistakes than performing brilliancies.
Six Spades would have been defeated straight away if West had led his singleton Diamond. east would have won the Ace and given his partner a Diamond ruff. West naturally preferred a top Club.
Declarer ruffed the Club, cashed the Ace of Hearts, ruffed his second Heart and led up a Diamond. Again, east would have defeated the slam by rising with the Ace and giving his partner a ruff.
In truth, this was the indicated defence as declarer had to have six Diamonds (and five Spades) on the bidding and play to date.
east woodenly played secondhand low and declarer won the King. He crossed back to dummy in Spades and led dummy’s second Diamond.
This time, east should have played low and let his partner ruff and lead a second Spade. Declarer would have only one Spade left in dummy and two Diamonds to ruff.
east would have to win his Ace and that would again be down one. east fell from grace and won his Ace of Diamonds on this second round. Declarer could ruff his Club return, ruff a Diamond in dummy, ruff a Club back to hand, draw trumps, then cash Diamonds. Slam made. east had unerringly found the only way to let declarer make his slam.
The star pairing of the event was Norwegians Brogeland-lindqvist. However, even the mildmannered espen Lindqvist wasn’t error-free—take this deal from the semi-final.
Unwilling to lead any other suit, West kicked off with the ten of dummy’s Clubs, the best start to the defence. Declarer, Lindqvist, won the Ace and played Ace-king of Spades (seeing east’s ten fall), then the nine. West won the Queen and found the best return of his second Club, severing communications.
Declarer won in hand, drew West’s last trump and led the King of Diamonds.
east had discarded the eight of Diamonds to indicate an even number of cards, so West knew to win the King of Diamonds with the Ace, exiting correctly with a low Heart. Declarer beat east’s Queen with the King, but had to lose two Hearts to West’s Ace-ten. Down one.
At the other table, declarer, also receiving the ten of Clubs lead to his Ace and cashing the Ace-king of Spades, made the key play of leading the King of Diamonds rather than the nine of Spades.
West could win the Ace and lead his second Club, but dummy’s Queen-knave of Diamonds were established for two Heart discards. Realising this, after beating the King of Diamonds with the Ace, West tried Ace and another Heart. It was no use—declarer lost only the two red Aces and the Queen of Spades—game made.
In spite of this reverse, the Norwegians—with Zia/meckstroth —were the worthy victors.
(1) south has a game-forcing hand by any standards, but sensibly prefers to start slowly to be able to describe his hand and learn more about the other hands. (2) needs a little more than four spades and a singleton Heart opposite—and both appear likely on the bidding.