Janet de Botton

Bridge | 05 December 2019

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As 2019 draws to a close, it is time to review the year’s achievements and disappointments. My team’s highest achievement was winning the English Premier League, and the less said about the disappointments the better! Looking at the National Grading Scheme (the ranking for British players), I was slightly surprised to see that Mike Bell and Ben Norton were ranked number 1. Surprised, because I didn’t even know they were a partnership. But there they are leading the field and it’s not hard to see why if today’s defence, from the second stage of the European Open Trials, is any indication (See diagram).

Against this totally normal contract, West led the normal Jack. At seven of the tables in the trials, this was a nothing hand; the defence takes four Diamonds but when the Club finesse works, Declarer chalks up nine tricks. Indeed, I’m sure the hand could be played thousands of times up and down the country, and no one would do anything different. But at none of those tables was Ben Norton East! The Jack held the first trick, but at trick two South put up the king. Ben won the Ace and also took the Queen, but instead of cashing the last Diamond, he switched to a Heart! It’s all logical; the defence needs to get in one more time, so may as well wait to take the last Diamond until then. But look at what happened. Declarer naturally assumed that Diamonds were 5–3 with West, so instead of taking the Club finesse he made a safety play in Clubs to try to ensure that West didn’t get in. He took the ♣K and played another to dummy’s 9. He was perfectly happy when East won the 10, that is until the deuce of Diamonds hit the table…