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Still Sharp

Hand of the Week

Dlr:
South
Vul:
None
North
♠ 6 5 3 2
A K 9 5
J 7 2
♣ K 9
South
♠ A 7 4
7 4
A 8 6 4
♣ A Q 10 8
West North East South
1♣
Pass 1 Pass 1NT
Pass 3NT All Pass

Howard Schenken earned a reputation for his skill as a card player and, even at the age of 75, he demonstrated that he was still at the top of his game, as you can see from the following deal.

North’s bidding was highly optimistic, but Schenken’s partner’s learned that such optimism was often justified.

West led the ♠K, ducked by Schenken, who won the spade continuation (East discarded the 8).

Even if the clubs could be brought home for four tricks, the total would come to only eight. The problem was how to find a ninth trick without letting West in to cash three more spade tricks.

The answer? Schenken found it in the bidding. Why hadn’t West overcalled the 1♣ opener with 1♠? Probably, Schenken deduced, because he held no honor in diamonds.

So the play, on winning the ♠A, was a low diamond to dummy’s 7. East won the 10 and returned the Q. Schenken took the heart in dummy and led the ♦J, covered by the queen and ducked. As Schenken had hoped, the 9 appeared from West.

East continued with the J, and after winning in dummy, Schenken led dummy’s 2 for a successful finesse of the 8. On these two tricks, West discarded two spades. It was obvious he was holding four clubs, but Schenken didn’t need to be concerned about whether they included the ♣J. He simply led his last spade (West was down to one), establishing dummy’s fourth spade as the ninth trick.

Note that even if a spade had been discarded from dummy on the fourth diamond, Schenken could have brought home the contract by leading to the ♣K before throwing West into the lead with the last spade.

Against a wise declarer, silence is not always golden.

The full deal:

Dlr:
Vul:
North
♠ 6 5 3 2
A K 9 5
J 7 2
♣ K 9
West
♠ K Q J 10 6
3 2
9 5
♣ J 7 4 3
East
♠ 9
Q J 10 8 6
K Q 10 3
♣ 6 5 2
South
♠ A 7 4
7 4
A 8 6 4
♣ A Q 10 8