Here’s one of my favourite hands from the European Open Championships — although it caused David Gold to spend the next hour kicking himself. David is a world-class player, but even Homer nods, and after days competing in a sweltering tent in the Tuscan countryside, he made a small error which led him to go down in a slam. He realised it a second later — exactly the same time as one of our opponents, the Russian champion Andrey Gromov, who leaned over to point it out, only for David to cut him short with a forlorn ‘I know’. Mind you, only an expert would consider it an error; most of us would never have spotted it. Indeed, I had no idea what he meant until he drew the five-card ending for me:
David (North) bid diamonds first (an artificial response to my strong 2♣), so he was declarer. Incidentally, West (Gromov) made a fantastic bid of 4♥: a heart lead always beats the contract. East led the ♠K. David ruffed and ran all his diamonds but one. West was down to ♠6 ♥KQ9 ♣7. Dummy held ♥J106 ♣AJ. David cashed the ♣K and played a low heart to West’s ♥Q. That would have worked if West held two clubs and three hearts (he’d have to play a heart away from his ♥K, or a club to dummy’s A♣). But West had a spade to play: one down. David told me he should have deduced the end position (the auction suggested Gromov held more than two spades). Therefore dummy’s last five cards should have been ♠J ♥J106 ♣A. Now David could have played the ♣K to his ♣A, ruffed his spade and exited with a low heart… a beautiful solution, so beautiful that spotting it a moment too late was good enough for me.