Victor Mollo
Victor Mollo

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Aug 21, 1974

When a defender can score an unexpected trump trick there is good cause for elation. Occasionally, the reverse is true; the more unexpected the trump trick the less reason for elation and today’s hand offers the proof.

The hand was played by Victor Mollo, renowned british author, player and lecturer. Mollo’s devious plan to give defender a free trump trick allowed him to score his game in a most unusual way.

South dealer
All vulnerables

  8 3 2
A K J 8 5 2
J 6 5
K Q 9 8 6
9 7 4
10 9 8 7
  10 5 4
A 5
Q 10 6 3
A 4 3 2
  A Q J 9 7 6
J 10 7 3 2

Pass 2
Pass 2
Pass 3
The End  

Opening lead: 10

After North showed a spade preference, Mollo rebid his heart suit to show good distribution and to invite game, North accepted because he held a heart singleton and three trumps.

West led the club ten and East won the ace, dropping declarer’s queen. Had East returned a trump, Mollo would have probably lost a finesse, but he would have made the hand anyway (five spades, a heart ruff, two diamonds and two clubs).

Instead, East made the diabolical switch of ace and another heart and dummy’s entry was removed before the club suit was unblocked. The second heart was ruffed in dummy but the contract was in jeopardy. Mollo could easily lose a trump finesse and, another heart trick for down one. Here’s how Mello solved the problem with a little help from East: A trump was led to the ace and West lost his king.

The Club king was cashed and Mollo then played the spade queen and a low spade. East scored his trump ten unexpectedly but was forced to lead a minor suit to an eagerly awaiting dummy. Declarer was able to discard three hearts on the high diamonds and the high club to make exactly 10 tricks and his contract.

East could have saved the day had he thrown his trump ten on declarer’s spade queen. Declarer would then have been forced to lead hearts from his hand to go one down.

A truly challenging hand for both declarer and the defense. East’s early heart plays were most effective but he later tell from grace by his routine plays in the trump suit.