Despite the Italian monopoly of the World Bridge Team Championship during the last decade, the time is long past when one or two areas could be said to have all of the world's best players. Today I find good players, able teachers and sound bridge publications wherever I go. On a recent trip to the Orient, for example, somebody showed me a copy of New Zealand Bridge, an excellent publication put out by a comparatively small but highly knowledgeable bridge community. I was particularly intrigued by the following deal. It may be that the play called "a loser on a loser" is so well known that this little problem is not really a problem at all. Nevertheless, I warn you to watch your step. In order to enjoy the hand fully I suggest that you cover up the East and West cards until you have decided how, as South, you will play to make your small slam.
South rather suspected that North's diamond bid was not a genuine suit, but his raise completed the description of his hand and his spade weakness precluded any further action over six hearts.
If you had bid a grand slam, you would, of course, have no choice but to ruff the opening diamond lead and play for several good breaks, notably in clubs and trumps. But at six you can afford to give up a trick. How, then, do you play to the first trick and what is your plan for making the small slam?
No doubt you recognized that your best move was to let East win the ace of diamonds, insuring that you need do your ruffing in only one hand, your own, and guarding against the possibility of finding four trumps in one hand against you. But if you decide to discard dummy's spade loser on this first trick—the loser on loser play—and plan to establish dummy's clubs, you have lost the contract.
East would win the diamond trick with his ace and return a spade, knocking out dummy's ace. You cash the ace of clubs and ruff a club high, but find that you will have to ruff another. So you lead your 6 of hearts to dummy's 9, and ruff another small club with your second top trump. Now you lead the jack of hearts and overtake with dummy's queen, intending to draw the last trump with North's 10 of hearts. But the hearts don't break either and West makes his trump trick. Nor would it have helped you to hold the lead with your jack of hearts. You would have to use one of dummy's trumps for a ruff in order to get into the North hand, and West would still make a trump trick.
Your error was your haste to throw a loser on a loser. Once you were going to give up a trick to the ace of diamonds, there would be plenty of time to discard dummy's spade loser on your diamond king or queen. Instead of throwing that 6 of spades on the first diamond lead, you should have thrown a small club. Now when East wins the trick, he cannot attack dummy's spade entry without establishing two spade tricks in your hand. Even if West refuses to cover your queen of spades and later throws a spade, the first time you lead a low club from dummy you will make your slam easily. A spade lead to the ace will enable you to ruff a second club high. Then you can cash the heart jack and lead the heart 6 to dummy's 9 to extract West's last three trumps. North's high clubs take the remaining tricks.
Did you go down one? The good players down under made it.