Bridge has always been a game of highs and lows, but what happened to Janet de Botton and her partner Artur Malinowski at the Easter Championship Pairs was more like being strapped to a rollercoaster. It started when everyone was staring at the computer screen waiting for the final results. The top three pairs — Janet included — were within a hair’s breath of each other, and with each new score their positions kept switching. Then the last score came in — Janet and Artur had won! Off they went for a celebratory bottle of champagne. Later came a message: sorry, a score was wrongly entered, they were second. Utter deflation. An hour later, another text came: mistake, she had come first. Elation! But the following morning, she was told: ‘Er, it’s not actually a certainty.’ Good grief. By lunchtime, they were declared winners again. By then, she was too drained even to raise a smile.
On this hand, Janet found the winning lead for a top score. Cover up all but the South’s hands.
East’s 2NT was a positive. What would you lead? Remember it’s matchpoint scoring, where every overtrick counts. It was hard to believe that 6NT was going down; but Janet figured that if West held long clubs, it was conceivable that he would make all 13 tricks if she didn’t lead the ♠A. Down came dummy — with its singleton ♠K! (Artur had to squander a trick by playing the ♠Q to ensure a continuation.) It was a bold lead given East’s spade bid — I gave the problem to several experts, none of whom chose the ♠A lead. But East had made a bad bid, and was duly punished by a pair who were on fire that day and came first, or was it second, no, first, no, second, no, FIRST!
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