"There arrived in the mail the other day an intriguing letter from a good friend of mine, Don Von Eisner of Hilo, Hawaii. Don's profession is the writing of mysteries, and one of his creations is Colonel Danning, a combination bridge expert and detective; two fields of endeavor that have much in common.
"I happened to be kibitzing Colonel Danning in a high-stake game last night," wrote Don, "and he came up with a rather rare play which I had reason to enjoy very much." As you will see, the play is not only a rarity, it follows the mystery story precept that the least likely line of thought is the right one. I venture to add my guess that the initial detective work occurred in a hand played by the author himself, for no one need help Life Master Von Eisner with the bridge scenes in his books. He is one of Hawaii's—indeed, one of the country's—top players.
Don explains South's four-spade bid on the grounds of that player's dashing style, which is fair enough. He justifies the colonel's double with the West hand, explaining that, if West passed, East might infer some tolerance for clubs.
Dummy won the club ace and led the spade king. East took the ace and tried to set up a trump trick for partner by leading a club. But South could afford to ruff high—and did so. Two more high trumps cleaned up the suit and South led the queen of hearts. Danning won the trick, and his partner, having previously discarded two hearts, threw a club.
By counting the cards already played, declarer now knew that Danning held only two diamonds and these must include the king to justify his double, if not his opening bid. And West's case seemed hopeless. If he exited by leading a high heart, declarer would trump and lead the jack of diamonds. If West took the jack with the king of diamonds, he would have to lead a low heart to North's jack and set up a finesse of East's diamond queen or lead his low diamond and finesse his own partner. Nor would it help the defense any if West passed up the first diamond lead and let East win it with the queen. Declarer's next diamond play would be the ace, dropping West's king.
But declarer's cards could also now be counted by the colonel. He knew that South must have started with seven spades, four diamonds and two singletons. As a result, West was able to figure out the only possible defense. Can you see it?
After capturing the heart queen, instead of leading a high heart, West led a low one. This made dummy the gift of a heart trick—and made declarer the gift of a useless diamond discard. Thus astute Colonel Danning had escaped the trap by springing it too soon for declarer to gain an advantage. West could now afford to win either the first or second diamond trick with the king and get out by leading a high heart. Forced to trump the high heart in his hand, declarer would have to lose another diamond trick—and his contract.
Notice that it was East's quick sluffing of two hearts that enabled both the colonel and declarer to count the distribution. If you think it will help partner if you reveal your distribution, do it.