The late, great Martin Hoffman always claimed he was the unluckiest player in the world. If he was playing rubber, he moaned he never picked up a hand and if he did his partner passed. If he was playing duplicate with a sponsor, finesses never worked for him, suits never split and slams went off.
We’ve all been there — and we have all moaned about our terrible luck. But I must confess that when he showed me this hand I had some sympathy.
Martin was sitting East and ‘for once’ had an opening hand, but his excitement was short-lived when South overcalled 1NT and they bid to game via the transfer to Spades. South thought for some time over 3NT, but finally decided to leave it with her 4-3-3-3 shape. This was the first disaster, as 4♠ has no play whatsoever.
West led a Diamond to Martin’s Ace, and Declarer’s ◆10 held the next trick, which seemed to bemuse her a little. She played a Spade to the King and one back to the Ace, and then put the Queen of Diamonds on the table, covered by West’s King. ‘Ruff please,’ said South confidently, and there was a pause before everyone except Martin laughed. ‘There are no trumps in No-Trumps,’ said North helpfully. Declarer gulped, pulled herself together and said: ‘I had better discard a Club then.’
Poor Martin. He had to sit there and watch his partner cash two more diamonds and exit a club. South ran the spades and Martin was squeezed in clubs and hearts. So declarer, by not knowing which contract she was in, had found the only way to make it. Unlucky!
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