The commentators pointed out that cashing two more spades would reveal East's four-card holding.
His opening three-club bid suggested a seven-card club suit.
Declarer could not afford to play two rounds of hearts to complete the count for he needed two entries to dummy. But if he led the heart queen to dummy's king, all but one of East's cards would be accounted for, and North would have at his command a play that would bring home the slam if that card were any but the king of diamonds.
The percentage line is to lead the 10 of diamonds from dummy and, if West ducks, play the queen. This play is superior to the double finesse. It wins if East holds the singleton jack, as well as where West holds all four diamonds. West's best play is to duck and let North make the queen. West has previously been forced to discard two hearts on the spades. Now cashing the high club bails him out of that suit, leaving him with two hearts and three diamonds. Declarer cashes his two remaining hearts and throws West in by playing the 9 of diamonds. West is forced to return a diamond into dummy's tenace. It does no good if, earlier, he tries to escape this fate by discarding a diamond. Then it is a simple matter for declarer to concede the diamond trick before cashing the hearts.
However, it didn't happen that way. Lazard (who afterward confessed that he was obsessed with the idea that East held the lone king of diamonds) led a low diamond from his hand after cashing only two spades. That scuttled the contract. West now had two diamond stoppers, and declarer could win only 11 tricks. Going down only one picked up an IMP, and the Rothlein team gained three more on the final hand of the match. But it wasn't enough. Fishbein's outfit managed to preserve four points of its margin, and will play for the United States next February—reinforced with one player from the Rothlein team, in accordance with the American Contract Bridge League's ruling that a five-man team must select its sixth from the runners-up. Thus, though haunted by regret for not having come up with the play that would have won the match for his team, Sidney Lazard, New Orleans oilman, will nevertheless be playing for us in the big matches next February.
To give you some idea of their timbre, his teammates agreed that the winners had made the logical choice!
And to give you an idea of what kind of player Lazard is, even before the match was played he had spent weeks studying the Neapolitan system (he even read my book on it!).
How will our team fare against Italy next February? I'm not ready to predict that as yet. Meanwhile, that Neapolitan system has six very interested students.