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Trials Final, segment 5 board 6
(Page of 2)

May 18. I wander into the living room and connect to BBO, sipping my first cup of tea. I see the guys have gotten to board 6 already:

Katz
QJ6
86
A8763
963
Greco
K973
A4
QJ542
Q4
Nickell
42
QJ9532
109
852
Hampson
A1085
K107
K
AKJ107
W
N
E
S
 
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
4
X
4
P
4N
P
5
P
?
D

At this point commentator Ira Chorushsays that 6NT will make. I look at that, using the few brain cells that are functioning this early. West is due to be squeezed in and , but surely the defense can break that up by ducking two diamonds? I say as much to Ira, and he explains why I am wrong. Then, life imitates art:

Katz
QJ6
86
A8763
963
Greco
K973
A4
QJ542
Q4
Nickell
42
QJ9532
109
852
Hampson
A1085
K107
K
AKJ107
W
N
E
S
 
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
4
X
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6N
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
8
4
J
K
3
1
0
K
3
2
9
3
2
0
7
3
Q
2
1
3
0
Q
10
5
6
1
4
0
4
5
A
6
3
5
0
K
9
4
8
3
6
0
J
7
3
2
3
7
0
10
6
5
3
3
8
0
10
8
A
5
1
9
0
J
9
7
A
0
9
1
J
11

Now what about this spade suit? The similar endgame where everybody has 3 cards in the suit has appeared often in the literature: the defender must exit with an honor from Hxx to give declarer a guess, and declarer's percentage play is to play for split honors. This suit is a little different; if Westexits with a low card only when he has no honor, declarer will always pick off QJ doubleton in East, so it's right in theory for West to lead low sometimes from Hxx. I don't think he should do it often enough to change declarer's percentage play, though I could be wrong.

In practice Hampsonplays West for QJx in no time at all, making 6NT. These guys can play better seeing only 2 hands than I can seeing all 4. And it's first thing in the morning, too. How can anybody play at all at 10AM?

Despite this superb play and defense, I think there was a card play error here. Can you see it? (It would, no doubt, have been better for E-W to play in such perfect tempo that declarer didn't know where the A was, but that is really not feasible against a topnotch declarer; that's not what I'm thinking of.)

If declarer was playing West for spade length to go with his A, and he didn't have much choice, he does better to come down to this ending:

Katz
QJ6
A
Greco
K9
J5
Nickell
42
Q9
Hampson
A108
10
D

The difference is he doesn't have to guess the pesky spade suit; just duck a diamond. This is the ending Ira wrote down when explaining the error of my ways.

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