N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} A J 10 9 5

{heart} K J 8 6 4

{diam} 3

{club} A 8

WEST

{spade} Q 6

{heart} 10 3

{diam} A 10 7 5 4

{club} K 10 9 2

EAST (D)

{spade} K 8 4 3 2

{heart} 9

{diam} K 8 6

{club} Q J 7 4

SOUTH

{spade} 7

{heart} A Q 7 5 2

{diam} Q J 9 2

{club} 6 5 3

The bidding:EastSouthWestNorthPassPassPass1{spade}Pass2 {heart}Pass6{heart}All Pass Opening lead: {diam} A

In one semifinal of the Spingold Knockout Teams, the premier event at the ACBL Summer Championships, one of history's great teams had its back to the wall.

After three quarters, Nick Nickell's sextet trailed a squad that included former world champions from Italy by 71 IMPs -- like being down three touchdowns to the New England Patriots. But Nickell, the team's founder and sponsor, and his five paladins, Richard Freeman, Bob Hamman-Paul Soloway, and Jeff Meckstroth-Eric Rodwell, possess a fighting spirit.

In today's deal, Meckstroth-Rodwell, North-South, bashed into an unlikely slam. A club lead would have beaten it, and since West needed two tricks, he might have tried to find East with the queen of clubs. But West led the ace of diamonds and switched to a trump.

Rodwell won with the ace and led a spade. West played the queen, trying to look like a man with the K-Q, and Rodwell took the ace and ruffed a spade. He ruffed a diamond, led a trump to dummy, ruffed a spade -- West discarded -- and ruffed a diamond.

When East's king fell, Rodwell ruffed out East's king of spades, threw dummy's low club on his good queen of diamonds, and won the last three tricks with a trump in dummy, the ace of clubs and a good spade. In the replay North-South stopped at game, and NICKELL gained 13 IMPs.

That was part of an extraordinary rally: NICKELL won the fourth quarter 84 to 2 and the match by 11. In the final they easily dispatched a team led by Warren Spector.

(c)2004, Tribune Media Services