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Dead Duck

What's the difference between the great and nearly great bridge player? I suppose it could be debated, but no doubt there are several characteristics which would be on the list. I'd say one is to always be thinking hard. Of course no one is absolutely always with it, but some seem to be pretty darn close!! I got to see this during the final session of the Reisinger in Denver. With 3 rounds to go and our two teams jockeying for a place in the middle of the pack, Richie Coren and I played against Tor Helness and Geir Helgemo. Here was the 3rd board of the round (I've switched positions to make declarer South):

West
J96
10842
KQ975
10
North
Q74
K75
84
Q9863
East
10852
A93
106
AJ52
South
AK3
QJ6
AJ32
K74
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I guess Richie was a bit tired of bidding NT himself. In any case after the auction shown, I was declarer at 3N against a high diamond lead. I ducked the first and Tor smartly shifted to a heart. Geir put in the 9, I won the queen and lead a low club to the queen. Geir ducked...and in pretty quick tempo too!! (almost perfect tempo, but I did notice his thought enough that I chose to play to the king next...hoping for Axx). Now as you can see....I was the dead duck!! I could no longer set up and reach the clubs after he ducked the next one too.

Now you may say, well he knew basically where all the cards were from trick one....and I'd agree. I 'd also agree if you said that we should all work this problem out. But the question is, how many of us are present enough to make such plays at the table in big spots nearly every time? How many of us would have found this specific play right here? (I suspect I would on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only)

Interestingly, when one of my teammates came back and read off -120 for a loss, he asked in a surprised tone, "Really...I thought there were nine tricks, no"? My teammate is a world class card player in his own right, but was looking at this hand from a different perspective. When I said, "well, when I led to the club queen at trick 3 and the son of a gun ducked...."....my teammate sat for a moment thinking...and then just smiled in admiration.

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