Today’s deal is all about counting.


See if you can match declarer’s effort from the finals of a recent US trials. Roger Bates declared a game that would have been impossible to make on a heart lead. However, on a diamond lead and heart shift (a trump switch would have worked better, but one can understand East’s play) Bates was still in with a chance.

How did he play?


ANSWER I thought Roger Bates handled his delicate game contract very carefully, finding a fine line of play in his contract of four spades. His partner Ralph Katz thought the three spade call was forcing — as would I — so maybe the South hand is not worth more than a bid of two spades at the second turn after the initial double. After a diamond lead and heart shift Bates went up with the heart ace and played a club, and West took his ace and tried two more rounds of hearts.

Bates ruffed, led the diamond king and ruffed a diamond, then cashed the club king and observed the fall of the queen from East. Assuming this to be a true card, East was known to hold three hearts, four diamonds, and apparently only two clubs, and thus must have four spades. Accordingly, a single finesse in spades would not bring the suit home safely, and the only legitimate chance was to find West with the singleton spade queen. So Bates played a trump to the ace, and was rewarded by seeing the queen fall, to bring his contract home.