You are West, holding:

S A 7 4 H A J 9 5 3 2 D 9 8 7 C 2

East dealer, both vul.


(1) Weak

Pass, double or bid 5H? If you elect to defend, what do you lead?

Scroll down to see the winning decision

The deal comes from France vs Israel for the 1976 Bridge Olympiad, played in Monte Carlo and won by Brazil after a dramatic finish over Italy.

At this vulnerability, bidding on is not so attractive: the sacrifice at 5H risks to cost a lot, and you have some serious hopes to beat their game. But there is only one lead to achieve this end, duly found by Paul Chemla. The full deal was:

S 9 8 6
H 8
D Q J 6 5
C Q 10 9 6 3
S A 7 4
H A J 9 5 3 2
D 9 8 7
C 2
S Q J 10 3 2
H K Q 7
D 4 3 2
C J 4
S K 5
H 10 6 4
D A K 10
C A K 8 7 5

Paul Chemla boldly underled his ace of hearts! He led the nine, a suit-preference signal for the highest suit, spades. Michel Lebel had the hoped-for king and he received the message. He returned the queen of spades and down went the Israeli game! A sparkling defence by the French star, but... virtue had to be its own reward.

At the other table, Svarc, South for France, opened 1NT and was left to play there. A low heart was led by West and when the smoke cleared the defence had collected 11 tricks! Svarc only made his two aces, for five (!) down and -500. Chemla's brilliancy only served to restrict the losses to 9 IMPs (compared to 15 IMPs had he allowed 5C to make).

This remarkable incident happened at 10 tables across the room. Minor-suit transfers over 1NT were not then as widespread as they are nowadays. But even today, do you and your partner have a way to reach a club partial or game with these N-S cards?

Special thanks to Yvan Calame for the HTML conversion!

Nikos Sarantakos,
Luxembourg, June 1998

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