Well done to Janet and her team for their victory at the London Easter Congress. My own team — David Gold, Peter Taylor and Ingar Hansen — were lying first equal at one point, but ended up slipping to tenth after Janet and her crew beat us in our head-to-head match. I seem to have been jinxed by the number 10, as David and I came tenth in the Pairs too. I wish I could say we didn’t have much luck. The trouble is, the hand that sticks in my mind is one where we got very lucky indeed: I made a poor lead against a slam but our opponent managed to go down by making an even worse play. Although I didn’t give the slam much thought at the time, I was chatting to Peter Taylor about it afterwards, and he said how surprised he was that half the field had gone down, when in fact a simple squeeze brings it home:
Sitting South, I led a diamond. When dummy went down I groaned inwardly; I had made it possible for declarer to pick up the entire suit. But declarer played dummy’s ♦9 (!) and David played the ♦10 to her ♦A. Now she had to concede a diamond, and fell back on a club finesse — one down. But as Peter pointed out, even if the diamonds break, you’d still take the club finesse for an overtrick, so you may as well take it early. More importantly, by playing on clubs before diamonds, a squeeze might arise. And that’s how to make the slam. Say you get a heart lead. You win and take a club finesse. It loses, and the ♣10 is returned to dummy’s ♣J. Now run off your tricks until you reach this ending: ♠J,♥J,♦3,♣7 opposite ♦KQ96. South is down to ♦J87, ♣9. On the play of the ♥J, anything South discards hands you your twelfth trick.