I write about this week's hand in the belief that confession is good for the soul. The experience herein recorded touched me deeply at the time, because I was so anxious to impress my partner, who had upheld his end of the deal with great distinction. In good traditional spirit I sat South, and North was W. Somerset Maugham, who a short time before had consented to act as master of ceremonies for some new material I was producing (SI, Sept. 16).
He opened with one heart and, in spite of the lack of a fit, I elected to make an immediate jump shift because the hand possessed a distinct slam aroma. He naturally rebid the hearts and I decided to bid four diamonds as a stepping stone, intending all the time to play the hand at spades, whether partner supported them or not. His five-club call was well chosen and was an obvious cue bid. It could hardly be interpreted as trying to find a new place to play the hand at this late stage. This enabled me to jump to a slam in spades, and Mr. Maugham, on the strength of the king of diamonds, elected to contract for a grand slam, a bid which I admire.
The opening lead was the queen of clubs and on the surface the hand appeared to be a laydown. I intended to ruff one diamond in dummy with the 10 of spades, a plan which would fail only if the diamonds were divided six-one. When this proved to be the case the second diamond was ruffed, and I was down one to the accompaniment from Mr. Maugham of "Nice try, partner." Even if he wrote bad novels I would have to like him. I don't know whether he noticed at the time that I could have made the hand, but in any case I'm sure he would have made the same comment.
Actually, I don't like the way I played it. A better plan would have been to win with the king of clubs, play ace of hearts and ruff a heart. Enter dummy with the 10 of spades and ruff another heart. If the king falls all is over. If it fails to drop, the trumps are tested, and if they are three-two, another heart can be ruffed and the king must fall. If not, then by leading out the top trumps, a double squeeze will result. West will have to hold hearts, East, diamonds, and therefore no one will be able to guard clubs. East must reduce to one club when the trumps are played; West feels the pinch when declarer makes the third diamond. I have reason to thank fate that this was only friendly bridge.