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A hand that is still memorable after 32 years

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Fig 2: the hand at the World Pairs Championships in Biarritz, France, in 1988

So welcome to the lockdown — what a change in all our lives. All we can and must do, however, is be careful, follow the rules and hope that here, and globally, things change for the better from a slowing of the infections and the fatalities, and perhaps the miracle of a vaccine that becomes available faster than the demoralising predictions of 12-18 months.We all hope that the actions being taken locally, which appear to be ahead of the curve, will keep us safe.Amid all this, Poker and Bridge websites have simply exploded — the hourly 12 Board Speedball tournaments I play in on BBO used to attract perhaps 30 to 40 pairs — nowadays the cut-off for each of these is 400 pairs and if you aren’t signed up at least 30 minutes before the start you just won’t get in. BBO is just about coping — the software seems robust, but they are struggling to get enough directors to deal with all the issues in games this large. That, however, is getting better each day.The local online game continues to thrive and here are the results of the three games:Masterpoint game1, Bill Pollett2, Lynanne Bolton3, George Correia4, Heather WoolfIMP game1, David Petty2, Tim Mardon3, Tracy Nash4, John LubermanBeginners Game1, Rob Mulderig2, Dawna Ferguson3, Jean Schilling4, Louis GariepyPollett is two for two so someone needs to knock him off his perch, and it’s great to see some new names in there, including an old friend and colleague Rob Mulderig who is hooked, wants badly to get better and is clearly winning that battle.Contact Bill for details on how to sign on for these games.This week’s hand comes from the World Pairs Championships in Biarritz, France, in 1988 where I was partnering my great friend and bridge partner, the late Ernie Owen. The hand enters the realms of high-level bridge where the defence more often than not makes everything difficult for declarer, something one doesn’t see often at the local bridge game.Before I give you this hand let me give you a foretaste of where we are going. This is your side suit after all trumps are drawn and you have a lot of entries to the dummy. You need to lose only one trick in this suit to make your contract (see Fig 1).So what happens at the Club? Declarer goes to dummy and plays a low Club to the king, which is won by the ace. After winning the return declarer has no choice but to go to dummy and finesse the jack, and when this works the contract comes home.What happens at the top-level? When declarer plays the king, West plays smoothly low. Now it looks as if East has the ace so declarer goes back to dummy and plays a low Club, and when RHO again plays low, plays the queen- curtains!West wins the ace and returns Club — down one.Now back to Biarritz where this was the hand, and I was sitting West on lead against a contract of 6 Spades (Fig 2).South opened a strong Club, found the Spade fit, asked for aces and hearing none from partner (these were the days before RKC Blackwood) settled in the small slam in Spades.Knowing Ernie probably had one ace on the bidding, I hoped it was the Heart ace and I led my singleton Heart which declarer won, drew trumps and led a low Club from the board. Ernie played low and when declarer played the king I followed suit. Declarer now crossed to dummy and led another Club, on which Ernie held his nerve and again played low — decision time!Declarer, a top French player who I had played against a few times, now put his cards on the table, looked to the sky for divine guidance, stared at me to try and figure out whether I was cunning enough to have ducked the first Club with the ace, and after an eternity played the 10. I gratefully won the jack and returned a Club and the contract went one down.Declarer, with a Gallic shrug, said to partner “it was 50-50”. However, partner was having none of it, and said: “When you found out that David had led a singleton Heart it should have told you that he cannot hold an ace, as he is hoping that the one ace we are missing was the Heart ace so he could get a ruff — so the Club ace must be with Ernie.”Brilliant, simple, brutal but flawless analysis, which is why the hand has stayed in my memory for 32 years.

Fig 1: side suit