Problem no. 19, 2003
Thirteen years ago, I played a big teams tournament in Olso, Norway. I didn't play with one of my regular partners, and we had agreed to bid according to the Swedish standard system Modern Standard. For the first half of the tournament we were quite successful, and one of our good results was the deal I'm going to tell you about.
Only my opponents were vulnerable when I opened the bidding with 1 in first seat. Then the bidding quickly escalated:
East doubled so quickly, so I knew he had to have all the defenders' trumps. In spite of my 4-3-3-3 distribution I wasn't overly worried, with my 18 HCP, mostly in aces and kings, and with good trumps.
When the opening lead was done, my partner tabled his cards and said he hoped it was a correct save. What I could see was the distribution 5-1-4-3, in this specific order, and only two of his cards were higher than an eight: the queen of diamonds and the ten of diamonds.
But our cards fit well, and I immediately realized that the "save" might make. Besides I had a very important card in my hand – the five of spades. With the four of spades instead, the contract wouldn't have had a chance at all.
But why was the five of spades so important?
The full deal looked like this:
|| 8 7 6 3 2
| Q 10 9 2
| 7 6 5
|| K J 9 4
| Q J 10 9 6 3
|| 8 7 2
| K 8 5
|| A 7 4
| K Q 3 2
|| J 10 8
|| A Q 10 5
| A K 4
| J 6 3
| A 9 4
Since I had the five of spades, not the four, I could take a triple finesse through East. I won the heart lead and led a diamond to the ten and the ace. I ducked the club return, won the next club, pitched dummy's last club on the heart king and knocked out the diamond king. Then I could use dummy's three entries (two ruffs and the queen of diamonds) to take three trump finesses through East.
But if East had had the trump five (and I the four), he could have secured himself a trump trick by covering dummy's eight, seven and six. Then, his five will be the highest card in the deck.
East doesn't have to have exactly K-J-9-4 in spades. Q-J-9-4, Q-10-9-4 or J-10-9-4 are also possible.
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