January 20, 2014

Dlr: South ♠ 6 5 3 2
Vul: None ♥ A K 9 5
♦ J 7 2
♣ K 9
♠ A 7 4
♥ 7 4
♦ A 8 6 4
♣ A Q 10 8
West North East South
1♣
Pass 1♥ Pass 1NT
Pass 2NT Pass 3NT
All Pass

This deal was played by Hall of Famer Howard Schenken less than a month before he died of a brain tumor at age 75. Put yourself in Schenken’s place. West leads the ♠K, which you duck. West continues with the ♠Q, on which East discards the ♥8. You win the trick. Do you see a way to get to nine tricks?

Solution

Age and illness did not affect Schenken’s expertise at the bridge table, as you will see.

Schenken considered the situation, concluding that even if clubs could be brought in for four tricks, he still needed one more.

Schenken found his solution in the bidding. West obviously had a strong spade suit but had not bid. Schenken concluded that West passed because the rest of his hand was weak, most likely without a high honor in the diamond suit.

Backing his judgment, Schenken played a low diamond from his hand at trick three, putting in dummy’s 7 when West played low. The ♦7 forced the 10 from East, who switched to the ♥Q. Schenken won in dummy and advanced the ♦J, covered by East with the queen and ducked by Schenken, who was pleased to see the ♦9 appear on his left.

East continued with the ♥J, taken by Schenken with dummy’s ace. Schenken then finessed the ♦8 and cashed the ♦A, West pitching two spades.

It was obvious at that point that West had four clubs, but Schenken didn’t care whether the ♣J was among them. He simply played his third spade, establishing dummy’s 6 for his ninth trick.

Note also that Schenken could have discarded one of his spades and still made the contract by going to dummy with the ♣K and throwing West in with the last spade, forcing him to lead into the ♣A Q 10 at the end.

The full deal:

♠ 6 5 3 2
♥ A K 9 5
♦ J 7 2
♣ K 9
♠ K Q J 10 8 ♠ 9
♥ 3 2 ♥ Q J 10 8 6
♦ 9 5 ♦ K Q 10 3
♣ J 7 4 3 ♣ 6 5 2
♠ A 7 4
♥ 7 4
♦ A 8 6 4
♣ A Q 10 8