It was the best hand I’d had all year — and what’s more, I picked it up while playing rubber bridge for money at TGRs. The pound signs flashed before my eyes: there was no way I was stopping short of game, and the merest squeak from my partner would get me slamming. Well, you can guess what happened next: the bridge gods were having a laugh. In a few short minutes the hand turned to ash. Not only did I go down, cursing my bad luck, but one of my opponents happened to be the brilliant Thor Erik Hoftaniska, whose sharp analytical brain was able to point out almost instantly that I could in fact have made it. I was South:
2♣ was artificial and strong; 2♦ was artificial and ‘waiting’; 3NT showed a minimum of 25 points. When my partner bid an invitational 4NT I bid 6♣. The ♠5 was led. I won, crossed to the ♥K, ran the ♣J, then played a club to the ♣Q — West showed out. I tried my best to recover by cashing my spades and the A♥, then playing A♣ and another club — if East had held the ♦Q and was 3-2-4-4 I’d have made the contract as he would have to lead away from his ♦Q. But it wasn’t to be: a spade return dashed my hopes. I thought I’d done everything possible but Thor Erik (East) pointed out that a better line would have been to unblock my ♣10 under dummy’s ♣J, then play a club to the ♣Q. Next, play the ♥A, ♠KQ, ♦AK and a third diamond. This caters to East holding two hearts and either three or four diamonds to the queen: he wins and returns a spade. I ruff with the ♣2, then overruff with dummy’s ♣4, and play a heart towards my ♣A9 (East having only ♣K8 left). That really would have been the beautiful play that this beautiful hand deserved.