On my recent trip to the Riviera to participate in bridge festivities at Juan Les Pins and Monte Carlo, it was pleasant to meet again with my friend, Captain Ewart Kempson, editor of Britain's Bridge Magazine.
Afterward, I accompanied him back to England, where we spent a profitable afternoon browsing through the files of the London Times. There we uncovered this choice hand which had appeared in a London duplicate bridge contest. A considerable segment of the local populace eventually became involved in a commitment to make six hearts. This is an entirely logical contract which can be broken only by a four-one trump split. Despite the abundance of high cards no one would maintain that it is an easy hand to bid.
The sequence recorded in the diagram took place at one of the tables. While it was reasonably sound in its early stages it appears to have been derailed a little later on. South eventually found himself in a spot where, in order to rescue himself from a three-card diamond suit, he was bound to bid a slam in hearts without the assurance that partner had even one supporting card in the suit.
One South player found this prospect completely distasteful. He, too, had cue-bid his diamond suit and followed with a cue bid in clubs. North decided to treat the diamond response as honest and leaped to a slam in that suit. South was afraid to return to hearts in the face of his partner's strong preference for diamonds and elected to brazen it out at the bizarre contract of six diamonds. I leave it to the reader to decide whether the result was the just reward of courage or the unmerited good fortune of cowardice.
The 10 of clubs was led and the jack held in dummy. The ace of spades was followed by a spade ruff in the closed hand. Dummy was entered with the ace of hearts and another spade was ruffed with the ace of trumps. With the fortunate spade break, North's long suit was established. The 10 of diamonds was then finessed and declarer cashed dummy's top trumps. This left only one trump outstanding, and declarer proceeded to lead dummy's good spades. West could ruff in whenever it suited him to do so, but any return he could make would then permit declarer to cash the rest of the tricks in dummy.
After studying the account of this remarkable exploit I walked briskly to my bookshelf and with a firm hand ripped out the chapter on slam bidding from my own treatise.
It will be observed that there is no defense to the six-diamond contract. It is true that a trump opening makes it a little more difficult, but the hand can still be won. Two spades can be ruffed in the closed hand but the club jack must be finessed in order to obtain sufficient entries to dummy.
Today's opus points up the danger of promiscuous cue bidding before it has become clearly established that there is available a contract at which the hand can play with reasonable safety. Remember, ending in the wrong suit will rarely produce so happy a landing.