It was great to see an England team win the hotly contested World Bridge Tour ‘Survivor Cup’ recently. Many congratulations to Tim Leslie, Ollie Burgess, Michael Byrne, Kieran Dyke, Ben Norton and Mike Bell. Of course at that level, it’s not enough to play well — you also need flair. My friend Mike Bell is one of those players whose imagination is always at work. You might not guess it: he seems unshowy, methodical and down-to-earth (apart from his eccentric refusal to wear a jumper or coat whatever the weather). But down the years I’ve often been dazzled by his ability to visualise his opponents’ cards and entice them down the wrong path. Take his defence on this hand (he was North).
South led the ♣J to Mike’s ♣A. What would you do next? I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been up to what Mike played: the ♥J. Here was his thinking. His partner had at most a queen. Declarer was always making his contract by playing on diamonds unless South had the ♥Q ( in which case any heart would work). Giving declarer an extra winner in hearts may give him an alternative route to 9 tricks via a spade finesse (5 spades, 2 clubs, 1 heart, 1 diamond). Declarer may even find a reason to duck from ♥Qxxx if he thought South had ♥AK.
Declarer won with the ♥Q and — exactly as Mike hoped — played a spade to dummy’s ♠K and ran the ♠10 to South’s ♠Q. South returned a heart. Mike cashed the ♥AK and exited with a spade. Declarer cashed his top spades and clubs, and ended up having to take the diamond finesse — one down.
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