The nomenclature of contract bridge is full of colorful terms borrowed from other sports. For example, the play that makes an opponent surrender a trick because he cannot guard two suits at the same time was named the squeeze by Sidney Lenz. It reminded him of the baseball maneuver which sometimes is used to deliver the winning run from third base.
Baseball also furnishes the force. In bridge, this describes the play that compels declarer to use his or dummy's trumps. Punching, a word from boxing, is used by bridge players to describe the same force action.
The ring, of course, has many punches. There is an equal variety of jabs and biffs at the bridge table. Take, for instance, this one, which I was lucky enough to watch. It was brought up from the floor in order to make the declarer expend a high trump, and I called it an uppercut. The term still strikes me as apt, for in bridge, as in boxing, you have to set yourself for the uppercut before you can deliver it.
With 10 points in high cards, North had a good free raise in spite of holding only three trumps. But the trump suit was not as solid as it appeared. Its weakness lay in its vulnerability to the uppercut.
West took the king of diamonds and then the ace, with East echoing to show he wanted the suit continued. West knew that a third lead of diamonds would not produce a ruffing trick for East so he toyed briefly with the idea of shifting to a club. But the high cards in plain sight proved that South must surely have the king of clubs and probably other honors in that suit as well, so a club lead could only help declarer avoid any possible guess.
Another possibility was for West to underlead the ace of spades in hopes that East held the queen. But the bidding had marked West for the missing strength so even if declarer did not have the queen of spades there was little chance of his failing to play dummy's king.
Obviously, the correct strategy was to develop a trick in the trump suit itself with the aid of an uppercut. If East held the 10 of hearts and used it to ruff a third round of diamonds he could force South's ace or king and leave West with a sure trump trick.
Having reasoned thus far, West led the 8 of diamonds: not the highest one, because he wanted to be sure East would ruff, but a higher one than necessary as a warning that South could overruff, so that if East held two trumps he would ruff with the bigger one.
East dutifully trumped the trick with his 10 of hearts—and the knockout punch was on its way. If South had stood still and taken the punch, overuffing with his king or ace, he could not escape losing a trump trick and the ace of spades, to be set one trick.
But West's timing was a trifle off, and South was able to roll with the punch and escape the knockout. Instead of overtrumping, South simply threw off his queen of spades.