The Weekly Vista

Contract Bridge

The Curse Of Scotland

- by Steve Becker

For reasons no one is quite sure of, the nine of diamonds is sometimes referred to as

“The Curse of Scotland.” One side’s curse, however, might prove to be the other side’s good fortune. That was precisely the case in this deal, where the dreaded nine took its toll on the declarer but worked like a charm for the defense.

The deal occurred in the quarterfin­als of the 1988 Spingold Knockout Teams. North’s double of one diamond was “negative,” promising two four-card majors, after which South ended up in four hearts.

West, Lew Stansby, led the seven of clubs, and East, Chip Martel, won with the ace. Fully expecting the club lead to be a singleton, Martel returned the club three.

Ostensibly, the three of clubs was a suit preference signal, directing West to return the lower-ranking of the two remaining suits. In this case, the two suits were spades and diamonds, and Martel did not have much to shout about in either one. However, his diamonds were just the slightest bit better than his spades.

After ruffing South’s king of clubs at trick two, Stansby no doubt eyed his 150 honors in the suit and wondered how East could be asking for a diamond return. But partnershi­ps like this are made of strong stuff. So Stansby, demonstrat­ing complete faith in his partner, returned the diamond five, and that was that. Martel won the trick with the nine and gave West another club ruff to set the contract.

If West had not underled his diamond honors at trick three, South would have made the contract, eventually discarding his losing club on dummy’s fourth spade. But against a daring defense possessed of “The Curse of Scotland,” he didn’t have a ghost of a chance.

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