Card-reading Skill Pays Off

Dlr:
South
Vul:
Both
North
♠ 2
A 7 6 4
10 5
♣ A K Q 8 6 5
South
♠ A K Q 9 7 5
Q J
A 8 2
♣ J 4
West
(Sontag)
North
(Hamman)
East
(Weichsel)
South
(Soloway)
1♣(1)
2(2) 3♣ Pass 3♠
Pass 4♣ Pass 4♠
Pass 5 Pass 6♣
All Pass

(1) Strong, artificial, forcing.

(2) Preemptive.
On this deal from the 2004 U.S. Bridge Championships, Paul Soloway demonstrated why he earned so many accolades.

With two boards left to play in the 120-board semifinal match, Soloway’s team – the famous squad captained by Nick Nickell – trailed by 11 IMPs. Soloway was playing with fellow superstar Bob Hamman against greats Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel. This deal decided the match:

Sontag led the ♦K. Soloway won the ace and played the ♣J, discovering the bad news. On any normal trump division, the contract would have been easy, but with a sure trump loser and the heart finesse likely to fail, Soloway seemed to be in trouble. However, he found the only way to land the contract.

Soloway cashed the ♠A K Q (pitching a diamond and a heart from dummy), and ruffed a diamond in dummy. When East followed, Soloway was almost 100% certain that Weichsel’s pattern was 3-3-2-5. Therefore, he played the ♣A K Q and threw Weichsel in with the last trump. Weichsel, reduced to all hearts, was forced to lead from the ♥K. Even if West held the ♥K, however, it didn’t matter at this point: Soloway’s play rendered the position of the ♥K irrelevant. Brilliantly played for plus 1370.

At the other table, the contract was the same but it was declared from the North side. The auction was also different, so declarer took the heart finesse and went down, a 17-IMP pickup for Soloway’s team, who went on to win the match.

The full deal:

Dlr:
West
Vul:
Both
North
♠ 2
A 7 6 4
10 5
♣ A K Q 8 6 5
West
♠ 10 6 4
10 8 5 2
K Q J 6 4 3
♣ —
East
♠ J 8 3
K 9 3
9 7
♣ 10 9 7 3 2
South
♠ A K Q 9 7 5
Q J
A 8 2
♣ J 4