Dr Watson was in the East seat for this deal. Known for his overly optimistic bidding, the good doctor could not be stopped from propelling the contract to 6 spades after his partner opened a 15 -17 no trump, using Gerber along the way which ensured that Sherlock Holmes would become declarer. Watson reasoned that the slam was probably on with only two kings missing.
North led the 5 of clubs and a slight frown passed over Holmes' face as he paused to survey the dummy. "Mmmmmm" was all he said, which Watson privately considered a rather poor observance of the etiquette tip of the month. But then Holmes moved swiftly onward. The ace of clubs took the first trick and the ace of spades the second. A diamond back to his hand was followed by the king of clubs (discarding a heart from dummy) and two more diamond tricks ending back in his own hand. Then Holmes led a third club which he ruffed in dummy. South hesitated before discarding a diamond but was put on lead at the next trick when Holmes led a trump from the table. At this point South was caught. He either had to lead away from his king of hearts or give Holmes a ruff and discard in diamonds. He tried a low heart but Holmes let it run to the queen in dummy and claimed the rest of the tricks. Slam made!
"Well done old boy!" said Watson, "but wouldn't it have been better to have led a spade towards dummy in case North held all three?" "My dear Watson" replied Holmes "a 2 - 1 split is more likely than 3 - 0 and if a finesse of the jack lost to a singleton honour in South's hand it would not be possible to perform a later end-play. I had to assume the trumps would split evenly. Once South showed up with the 10 of spades she was twice as likely to hold the king and I saw a glimmer of hope if South held both major suit kings. But the contract really depended on the position of the 2 and 3 of clubs. After North's initial lead of the 5 of clubs, South played the 4 under dummy's ace. And when I later led the king of clubs from my hand, North produced the 2 and South the 9. I considered it probable that North had led their fourth highest club. Applying the rule of eleven, South held only one card higher than the 5, and I had just seen him play the 9. It therefore appeared almost certain that North held the missing 3 of clubs and the clubs must be divided 6 - 2. Had I played another club after the king and ruffed in dummy, South would have over-ruffed with the king of spades, exited with a diamond, and I would have eventually lost a heart trick. I needed to eliminate our diamonds before playing the third club trick so that South would have no safe exit card".
"Watson, you should really try to remember that 32 points are usually required for a small slam. We were fortunate not to receive the lead of the jack of hearts which would have killed the contract straight away. And the combined chances of finding the spades 2 - 1 and both major kings in the same hand are about 30%. In other words we were lucky to get a positive score. Would you make me a cup of tea?"
Watson's head was spinning as he set off for the kitchen, reflecting that perhaps on this occasion it would be unwise to mention anything about the etiquette tip of the month.
Click here to see the the hands from 31 August - this hand is Board 24.
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