the guardian Wednesday 12 October 2011

Why you should never say ‘never’

A player missed their chance for immortality in this deal

«You can never,» said the expert smugly, «make a grand slam on an endplay, since an endplay requires losing a trick.» A tip: never say «never». Today’s deal happened many years ago, and declarer missed his chance for immortality. Game all, dealer South.ZMahmood TG 12oct2011

The bidding is not recorded and systems were not as complex but players still managed to mess up. Perhaps after North-South started one club – one diamond – one heart, North supported hearts and South made a cue bid in diamonds that North thought showed the ace, which would explain why he placed the contract temporarily in seven diamonds. When this was doubled by East in a manner that left no doubt as to his reasons, South retreated to seven hearts. East must have been delighted as he doubled again, but the play took a rather surprising turn.

West led the 10 of spades without giving the matter much thought – there wasn’t any chance that his partner’s doubles had been of the Lightner variety. South won with the king over East’s queen, cashed the ace of clubs, ruffed a club, and led the king of diamonds. East decided not to cover, so South threw the club loser from his hand. The queen of diamonds followed, and this time East did cover so South ruffed. South ruffed his losing spade in the dummy, cashed the ace of hearts, and led the jack of diamonds. This was ruffed by East and overruffed by South. Declarer hadn’t lost a trick yet, but East now had the two highest trumps and the result was an ignominious minus 500 for North-South.

Or was it? East had ruffed the third round of diamonds, which was against the rules as he still had a diamond in his hand. He didn’t win the trick on which he revoked, but he did win two later tricks, one of which he had to give back to declarer so that the result was minus «only» 200. This was a pity, because if South had discarded on the third diamond instead of over-ruffing, he would still have lost two tricks but now the revoke penalty would have compelled East-West to give both of them back. And South would have become the first (and probably the only) player in the world to make a grand slam by a winner-on-loser endplay.