It’s exceptionally rare to pick up an 11-card suit. You might think it would happen at least once in a lifetime. But according to Tom Townsend, who’s a genius at calculating odds, you can expect to hold one every 2,722,762 deals — that’s once every 287 years if you play a 26-board duplicate every evening. So the hand below was naturally the talk of the recent Lederer tournament. If you had just one guess, who would you say managed to get the best score holding this freak distribution? Of course, that master of mind games, Zia Mahmood:
At every table, East opened 1♠ and South ended up in 6♦ or 7♦ (beaten just once, when Alexander Allfrey found the ♣Q lead against Espen Erichsen’s 7u). Zia Mahmood was the only South to begin with a simple 2♦ overcall. He psyched 2NT at his second turn. Then, when his partner Dennis Bilde raised to 3NT, he jumped to 5♥. This was Exclusion Blackwood, asking for aces outside hearts (jumping to 5♠ would have been the ‘honest’ way of finding out if grand slam was on). Bilde’s 5NT showed one ace, and Zia, gambling it was the ♣A or that the wrong suit would be led, bid 7♦. The Polish player Krzysztof Kotorowicz, East, made a ‘lead-directional’ double. Zia wouldn’t be Zia if he didn’t redouble. David Bakshi (West), under pressure to figure out which lead Kotorowicz wanted, reasoned that without the double he’d have led a club, and so chose a spade — allowing Zia to discard his club and notch up 2,660 points.