Barnet Shenkin

Mark of a Champion by Barnet Shenkin prev/next

Here is the hand which decided the Grand National Teams Championship. Put yourself in the West chair. See if you too would have found the winning play.
Dlr: S
Vul: N/S


 P 2♥

 P 4♠
 P 5♠

Your team is down by 3 imps with just two boards  play in the final of the Grand National Teams.Partner leads a trump against the slam. Declarer wins in hand and ruffs a club in dummy. He now draws two more trumps partner following once, then pitches a club.Declarer now runs the  ♦J  and you win your lone K.  What do you play ?

Lets see what you know. Declarer has 5 trumps . He must have the ♣ Ace and perhaps the K. He also has the♦ Q. If Declarer has 4 diamonds and 3 clubs the contract is assured. The only possible chance to defeat the contract is if Declarer has 3 diamonds . This will give him 4 clubs and 1 spade or 3 clubs and two spades. You can either return a passive club or play a spade which do you do ?
If you play the club Declarer will use the  ♠ Ace  as an entry to enter dummy after ruffing the fourth diamond and setting up the fifth. This will provide a discard for his club or spade loser , whichever he has. In order to deprive him of this entry you must play a spade and it has to be a low one. If you play the King partner would be squeezed in diamonds and spades.

This is the play my friend David Berkowitz found to help his team win the match and the title. It is a nice play but one that most experts would find if they were shown the hand on paper. At the other table,in the same contract and same lead and play the West player returned a club and Declarer made his contract as shown below.

 It is particularly hard  as a match draws to an end after a long struggle to focus clearly on the problem at hand. As Winston Churchill would have said  " In the heat of battle and  under stress  that is the time that defines a real man "  That is also  the mark of a Champion.bridge player.
You can follow the play at the other table when the contract was made.