by Zia Mahmood for The Guardian,
Secret documents revealed yesterday throw new light on this deal, played in a match held to promote cordial diplomatic relations between two countries whose names are withheld for obvious reasons. Game all, dealer South:
A series of optimistic views by North-South carried the partnership to six diamonds.
West led the five of spades, and South was confronted with a guess – assuming that West had the ace of clubs for his vulnerable overall, the question was whether to put in the 10 of spades or the eight.
If the eight were to hold the trick, West having led from KJ95x as opposed to KJ75x, declarer would easily make the contract: the run of red-suit winners would force West to retain three spades and the singleton ace of clubs, whereupon a second spade finesse and a club exit would endplay West to allow a third spade finesse.
So, South put in the eight , but East won with the nine, and the defenders cashed two club tricks to defeat the slam. At the time, North praised his partner for his courageous bidding and far-sighted play, while South promised to lift the threat of an oil embargo on North’s country.
However, a private communique from North to his political masters described matters thus: «South is a lunatic who cannot be trusted. There was no point in playing the eight of spades – the 10 would have done just as well. After five rounds of diamonds and two rounds of hearts, these would be the remaining North cards: AQ8, 54 while South would hold 4, 3, 4, K6. When the last diamond is cashed, West has to keep three spades or the whole suit will run, and must therefore come down to thesingleton ace of clubs. South simply discards a spade from dummy, finesses the queen of spades, ducks a club and claims the last two tricks.»
The Southern embassy declined to comment but in the interests of international relations I should like to pay tribute to The Bridge World, the American magazine from which this deal is taken and that has provided some of the best bridge writing and reporting for more than 75 years. You may quote me.