A Difficult Grand Slam 

We defended this interesting hand in the recent sectional tournament held at the end of October, and from my north position, I observed the optimistic auction here. The responder to the notrump opening bid was sure that he had the assets for a grand slam, and he expressed his convictions by indeed bidding such. I led the club jack and watched as the dummy came down with the assets here, and I was sure I had been trapped. My club lead made the whole club suit available to the declarer because all she had to do was take the first trick with the queen and then finesse me out of the 10-nine by leading toward the ace-king on the board. If I had not chosen that lead, she would have had no way to entice five tricks out of that holding.

I was kicking myself (in my mind) for giving her that opportunity when a strange thing happened. The declarer did not take advantage of the gift I had sent to her side of the table and played on the major suits instead, cashing the heart kind and the spade honors and then leading the diamond queen for a finesse. I won that trick, thereby setting the grand slam and assuring our side a plus score, but the flustered declarer managed to find two more tricks to give us and went down three. This was a complete top for us as we found out after the game. Several players had gone down in the contract of six notrump, and if our declarer had managed to make the cold 12 tricks available, she could have rescued several matchpoints for her side.

If you are curious about how to make 12 tricks, follow along: the three obvious clubs, three spades and three top hearts. Now lead the diamond ace and another diamond, and if the defender takes his kind, you will have the rest of the diamonds. If not, come back to hand and lead another diamond. You will have to adjust your timing and transportation to do this, but the clubs, diamonds and spades provide you with plenty of entries. All you have to do is count your tricks.

We're getting ready for the North American Championships in San Francisco and will have stories to tell of our adventures there.

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