World Bridge Championships, Lille, France 1998

As I was entering the Grand Palais yesterday, Zia stopped me. «I have a special hand for you from yesterday’s round-robin. My thanks go to Pietro Bernasconi for making it. If I had not gained some insight from the problems in the Par Contest, I never would have found the correct line. It was as if I was solving problem No. 13 in the contest. These were the North/South hands:Zia Lille 1998 1

Zia got a small diamond lead to the king that he ruffed. He led the club10, and West rose with the ace to fire back a second diamond, forcing him to ruff a second time. He knew East held all four of the missing trumps, and he already was down to just four. He saw that if he knocked out a heart, he would be forced to ruff again and wind up with fewer trumps than East. He solved the problem as follows. He led the clubQ and overtook with the king so that he could lead another diamond, which he ruffed. He had deliberately shortened himself, but, because of the Par Contest, he was sure he was on the right track. Next he led a heart, and West, holding the king-queen, had to win. But what could West lead. A heart would set up the whole heart suit, and Zia planned to finesse the club8 if West tried a club. And of course he could ruff a diamond in dummy now. West finally led a heart, won with dummy’s jack. At this point dummy still had three trumps and three clubs while Zia had the K-J-9 of trumps and heart A-10-9. East was down to four trumps to the queen-10 and two diamonds.

Zia called for the clubJ, and went East ruffed, Zia pitched a heart! What could East do? If he returned a trump, Zia would win with the 9, ruff a heart with the ace, finesse in trumps, cash the high trump and win the 10th trick with the heartA. If East led a diamond instead, Zia would pitch a heart from hand and ruff in dummy. Then he would ruff a club, ruff his heartA with the spadeA, and then would have the kingjack of trumps over East’s queen-10. Making 4spade doubled for a big gain since 4spade doubled, not surprisingly, was beaten one trick at the other table. This was the full hand:

Zia Lille 1998