This deal is from the 2012 Hilton Head Regional knockout teams.
♠— ♥A K 9 8 6 5 ♦J 2 ♣A Q 9 7 2
At both tables, East opened 1♠ and South had a decision. Should it be a Michaels bid or a 2♥ overcall? Surely it is reasonable to bid 2♠ (hearts and a minor). If partner doesn’t choose hearts, South can bid 3♥ himself. That would tend to show a six-card suit. Also, it would show a big hand.
(Normally, a Michaels bidder acts only the initial time.) But, at the table, both South players chose 2♥, planning to show their clubs later.
That “later” came at an uncomfortable level. Left-hand opponent raised to 2♠, partner passed and RHO bid 4♠. Now what? Both South players risked 5♣ (non-vulnerable versus vulnerable, which made the decision much easier). LHO doubled and partner corrected to 5♥. The opener passed, but LHO doubled again to end the proceedings.
The opening lead is the ♠2 (low from odd) and you see:
You have two diamond losers and likely a trump loser. RHO didn’t double 5♥, so it seems he isn’t sitting there with ♥Q–x or ♥x–x. He was willing to hear his partner go on to 5♠, so likely has nice distribution. You ruff the opening lead and, try the ♥A–K. No surprise, RHO started with a small singleton.
Is there any hope? What if you can throw away three of dummy’s diamonds on your clubs? Then you can give up a diamond and ruff a diamond in dummy.
For this to work, LHO will have to follow to the first four rounds of clubs. If he doesn’t have four clubs, he can ruff in early and switch to diamonds to set you. Accordingly, since you need him to have club length, the odds favor playing him for the jack. Both declarers boldly played a club from hand, closed their eyes and finessed dummy’s ♣10. Success! Next came the ♣K, all following. After a spade ruff back to hand, the good news kept coming. West followed to both the ♣A–Q, with dummy throwing away two diamonds. Then on the fifth club, dummy threw the penultimate diamond. West could ruff in on that fifth club with the master ♥Q and then declarer would lose only one diamond and ruff a diamond in dummy.
Astute readers will have noticed a fly in the ointment. Who says that West has to ruff in on the fifth club? All he has to do is discard. Then, declarer has to play a diamond from hand (dummy still has one diamond remaining). West can win and play the ♥Q to remove dummy’s remaining trump. Alas, declarer has to lose two diamond tricks anyway. The daring club play was all for naught.
Super-astute readers will notice that the contract is actually makeable after the spade lead! From the auction (East’s failure to double 5♥), declarer should have suspected the actual 3–1 heart break. After just one round of trumps, declarer should not have laid down a second trump.
He can go “all in” with the daring club finesse (risking down two in the process), then proceed as above. Cash the ♣K, ruff a spade and play the remaining three clubs, throwing three diamonds from dummy. The difference is that West can’t stop the diamond ruff. He can ruff in on the fifth club if he wishes, but can never cut down dummy’s ruffing power. If he ruffs the fifth club, he has only one trump left which can be drawn. If he doesn’t ruff in, declarer gives up a diamond (dummy’s last diamond) and West can’t effectively lead from his remaining ♥Q–x without sacrificing his natural trump trick.
Who would have thought? Declarer, who started with a doubleton diamond opposite four in the dummy, could make his contract by ruffing a diamond in the dummy!
This was the Real Deal: