by Ian Mitchell para

‘Ah, the lesser known Winner on Loser Coup‘, I commented once, when my most regular partner managed to go down in a cold contract by ditching an outside Ace on a defender’s winner. ‘I thought I might lose control if I were to ruff’, she said. I regret that I failed to record the details of the deal at the time. Hmm…, could there be a situation where she might possibly have been right?

OK, so we’ve all been pseudo-squeezed into throwing away winners that we shouldn’t have done. However, on this occasion, my partner’s brilliance was in discarding an incontrovertible winner in favour of keeping a guard in a suit that couldn’t possibly ever be led again.
The scene is the Mixed Pivot Teams on the Wednesday night at Brighton. Innocent victims of the coup were ‘English’ internationals Gunnar Hallberg (North) and Artur Malinowski (South). They bid briskly to a good contract, which, double dummy, is cold for at least ten tricks. Many declarers, though, were caught out by the bad breaks:

Q 10 9
J 7
A J 6 4 3

J 7 6 4 2
Q 9 8 5 2
8 2


10 3
Q 10 9 8 7 5 2
Q 10 9 5


A K 8 5 3
A K 6 4

7 6 4 3

Oeste Norte Este Sur
Yo G.H. Partner A. M.
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 3* Pass 4
The End      

* Forcing

I led the 8, taken in dummy. Artur crossed to his hand to play again towards the K (just in case the 8 was singleton), before exiting with the J. On this I ditched the K. Partner naturally put a diamond back through, Artur proffering the 8.
At this point, despite having a complete count of the hand (virtually down to every pip), I made my own minor Poorbridge contribution by over-ruffing. It is seldom right to over-ruff when you have a good trump holding, and I’m sure this hand is no different. Had I not done so, though, there would have been no story to tell.
I exited with a trump, and Artur drew all the trumps, cashed his last heart, and exited with his club to end-play East to lead into the diamond tenace on the table. Great recovery by Declarer!
But now put yourself into partner’s shoes. She’d heard something about defending against squeezes, in particular something to do with ‘keeping length with dummy’. On the run of spades and A, while dummy came down to just A J 6 with no outside entry, and despite the fact that both Artur and I had already shown out of diamonds, partner felt that she had to hold on to Q 10 9.
Of course, nobody else had noticed the crucial discard. As Artur played his last club, I congratulated him on his fine endplay, but admiration turned to astonishment as his 7 held the trick. ‘What? You’ve thrown away your club, partner? That’s brilliant!’ I exclaimed.
‘Sorry,’ she said, ‘was it a winner?’
Meanwhile Artur bemusedly looked back at his own hand to see two losing hearts there — one down! How many of us go through our whole lives only dreaming of making plays such as this?!