A Bridge Phantasmagoria




A hold-up is a method of cutting the enemy’s communications, usually at no-trump. Should there be a danger of a suit being established against you by one opponent, you postpone winning your stopper or stoppers until the other opponent has been baled out. The play took an unusual form in the hand below.

North-South game: West deals


S 10654
H A4
D QJ1096


S J2
H 9873
D K42
C 6432


S AQ987
H QJ10
D 8
C J1075


S K3
H K652
D A753
C Q98


McTavish at North opened One Diamond and East overcalled One Spade. South made a horrible bid of 2 NT, and seeing no way of avoiding South playing the hand, McTavish could only raise to 3NT with the result that the contract was now played from the wrong side of the table. Actually South’s hand was ideal for the sputnik or negative double, in which case North would play 3NT instead of South.

As it was, West led the jack of spades followed by the four and seven from East and the king from South. Confident that the king of diamonds would be with East, owing to the overcall, South went to dummy with a club and ran the queen of diamonds, expecting to come to eleven tricks. It came as a nasty shock when West won the king and returned a spade for East to make four spade tricks and set the contract.

“A Five Diamond contract would have been easy” moaned South, but McTavish was not prepared to let him off the hook. “If you were so confident that East had the king of diamonds, you should have bid to Six Diamonds. However, you were in 3NT and you should have made it. On the bidding, West is marked with a doubleton spade at best, and you should duck the first trick. A second spade to East’s ace will fell the king but now my ten is a stop.

You did not need a spade trick for your contract. When you lose the diamond finesse to West, he does not have a spade to lead and you have nine tricks for the taking” said McTavish testily.

“Sorry partner. It did not occur to me to sacrifice the king of spades,” said a deflated South.


by Carl Dickel