N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} A 6 5

{heart} K J 4

{diam} 9 8 7

{club} K Q J 2

WEST

{spade} 7 4 3

{heart} Q 9 5 3

{diam} A K 6 2

{club} 8 4

EAST

{spade} K 8 2

{heart} 10 8 7 2

{diam} Q J 10 3

{club} 6 5

SOUTH (D)

{spade} Q J 10 9

{heart} A 6

{diam} 5 4

{club} A 10 9 7 3

The bidding:

South

1 {club}

All Pass

West

Pass

3 {spade}

North

3 {club}

Pass

East

Pass

4 {spade}

Opening lead: {diam} K

I close out a week on the defenders' hold-up plays with one of the most remarkable deals ever recorded. It arose in a Sweden-Switzerland match years ago; East was the legendary Swiss player Jean Besse.

I can't vouch for the authenticity of the Swedish auction, but it may have gone as shown. In any case, Besse knew South probably had only four spades.

West led three rounds of diamonds. South thought about discarding to help maintain control--more evidence that he had a 4-3 trump fit. He finally ruffed and let the queen of trumps ride. Besse played low. South then led the jack of trumps--and with no hesitation, Besse played low again!

South could have led a third trump to the ace and claimed; but he couldn't imagine Besse had bared the king of trumps. South was instead worried that West still had the king and a low trump left. If South took the ace of trumps and started the clubs, West might ruff and cash a diamond.

So South abandoned trumps, leaving him with the 10 and dummy with the ace, and led good clubs. If a defender ruffed with a low trump, South could ruff the diamond return in his hand and lead a heart to dummy to draw trumps. It was a good plan; but on the third club, West ruffed low, and Besse pitched his last diamond. West then led a diamond.

South threw a heart from dummy, preparing to ruff and claim. They probably had to get the smelling salts for him when Besse ruffed with the king of trumps for the setting trick.

(c) 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate