Going into the 7th set BATHURST led DIAMOND by 62 IMPs. At the “Commentary Table” we already knew that Greco and Hampson had reached the reasonable (given the state of the match) but doomed on the lie of the cards grand slam. Hurd and Wooldridge bid 6♥ instead of the much easier 6NT. Some were already counting 17 more for BATHURST.
Gitelman led the ♦8. At the table Hurd won the ♦K and led the ♥2. Gitelman played the ♥5 and Hurd went into a long trance. He emerged, apparently muttering, “I’m going to be wrong whatever I play.” He went up with the Ace and was right. It was wrong on this hand, as East showed out. He went on playing, trying for a trump endplay, which would be possible if West had three or four spades and he could guess the shape, but it was not to be. Down one and a push.
The standard safety to avoid two trump losers with this suit is to play low towards one of the honors and, if the next player follows, cover. Either your card wins, and the Ace and King will leave only one trump outstanding or if it loses there will be only two hearts left outstanding, which can later be picked up with the Ace and King. Of what was Hurd afraid?
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Yes. If he wins the ♦A at trick one, he is where he wants to be, and when the ♥10 is led from dummy he cannot be isolated from his extra club winner. If West wins the trick and plays a club he can overtake the ♠Q to draw the last trump and later pitch the small spade on the ♣Q. In a way too many high cards embarrassed declarer. If the ♦K were a small one, he would have made the hand without breaking a sweat.
Why would 6NT have been easier? In 6NT declarer starts with four spade tricks, three clubs, and two diamonds. He therefore needs only three hearts to complete his twelve, and all the complications of ruffs and communication disappear. So, no matter where he wins trick 1, he can start the heart safety play without worries.
To John’s great credit, he went on to play the remaining 12 boards of the set impeccably, not dwelling (as far as we could tell) on the lost opportunity.
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