Last weekend saw the start of the Tollemache qualifier, the inter-county teams of eight championship. Thirty-five teams competed in four groups, the top two in each group going through to the final in February. Four members of my team were picked to represent two different counties: London and Middlesex. One of them (too grand for the band) was moaning like mad about having to go, but in the end came back thoroughly happy with both himself and the event and — I’m pleased to report — both their teams qualified for the final.
In today’s hand Waseem Naqvi, for Middlesex, made declarer regret thinking things were going well, by finding a nifty false card that defeated a laydown 3NT.
Waseem was West, and resisted the unsuccessful Diamond lead, instead choosing a passive ♠7. Dummy played low, and when East (Hoftaniska) produced the Jack, South had four tricks in that suit, and eight in total. We can see that Hearts are 3–3 and declarer could easily establish those, but he was wary of getting a Club switch from East and, reasonably enough, decided to try his luck in Diamonds instead. He went to dummy with the ♠10 and led a low Diamond to his nine. Was liked this development, took the trick smoothly with the Queen(!) and continued Spades. Assuming East held the ♦10, declarer was now guaranteed to make his ninth trick in Diamonds. He won the spade in hand, laid down the ♦Ace, entered dummy with the ♠Queen and played dummy’s last Diamond towards hand… When East showed out, South realised he’d been had — Waseem cashed his two Diamonds and shifted to a Club, and it was too late to go after the Hearts.
To paraphrase Auden: ‘If you appear to be prospering, suspect those bright contracts when you whistle with a light heart.’