Source: The Montreal Gazette – 17 Mar 1981

“Life in the wrong contract can be a most uncomfortable experience. If one adds a terrible trump division, it combines to make painful things. Not necessarily hopeless, but definitely painful.”

Dealer South E/W Vul

J 5 3
K 8
A Q J 10 5
10 6 3
9
A Q J 9 7 6 4
7 3
J 5 4
10 7 6 4 2
10 2
K 9 4 2
9 2
A K Q 8
5 3
8 6
A K Q 8 7
West North East South
1
2 Dbl Pass 3
Pass 3NT Pass 4
Pass Pass Pass

Opening lead: 7

Once North made a negative double of the weak Jump overcall, South had visions of a slam in spades. The three heart bid was intended to show slam interest and South was conservative in bidding four spades. Once the dummy came down with only three spades, the no trump game was obviously superior. That knowledge was of no consequence to South.

He won the ace of diamonds and started to play on spades. When West showed out on the second round of trumps, discomfort turned to pain. Attempting to control the hand, South stopped playing spades and started to run clubs. The defence was alert and on the third round of clubs, East discarded a heart. East then trumped the fourth club, returned a heart to West’s ace and got a heart ruff as well. The king of diamonds became the setting trick.

Despite the bad trump division, South could have made the hand with slightly different technique. Based on the opening lead, it seemed that East held long diamonds including the king. If that was the case, three diamond tricks could be taken as well as four spades. That left only three winners to come from both clubs and hearts. Wets’s vulnerable jump to two hearts left little doubt about the location of the ace of hearts.

Had South played two more rounds of trumps, leaving East with the one outstanding spade and discarded one club from the dummy, the contract would have succeeded. At trick six, South plays a diamond and East can do no better than to win the king of diamonds and return a club.

South then cashes two clubs only and must lead a heart towards the dummy. This will provide ten tricks. Well, it is always easier to see things after the act. I was West, defending with a bad case of flu and I think I can share South’s painful experience quite well. He was probably more interested in keeping away from West winds.

Question: What was wrong with North’s double of two hearts?

Answer: The negative double, if a partnership is playing them, absolutely guarantees four cards in the other major. I suppose absolutely guarantees is redundant but I had trouble with the tenses in the third last paragraph as well. It must be this flu.