The Manila Times



In my opinion, this is one of the most remarkable deals ever played. The declarer was Helen Sobel, considered by many to be the greatest woman player of all time. She won the club lead in her hand with the ace and then proceeded to deduce that East had been dealt the doubleton A-K of spades! Accordingly, she led a low spade from her hand at trick two and eventually finished with 11 tricks. The question is how Sobel could tell at trick one that East’s A-K of spades could be driven out without wasting her high spades or using up valuable entries to dummy for spade leads toward the Q-J. When the logic of her low spade play at trick two is examined, it is found to be eminently sound. Since only 14 high-card points were missing, East had to have the A-K of spades and king of hearts for his opening bid. Next, it was also reasonable to suppose that West did not have two hearts, or he surely would have led his partner’s suit in preference to his own, which was at best 10-x-x-x. Therefore, West had either a singleton heart or a void! But West could not be void. If he were, he would have a five-card suit, in which case he presumably would have led that suit in preference to a four-card suit (as indicated by West’s deuce lead). Hence, West had precisely one heart. The inevitable consequence of this conclusion was that West’s distribution was 4-4-4-1. Since West was thus marked with four spades, it followed that East had exactly two, and that they were the doubleton A-K! To cross to dummy with a club or a diamond — which would either cost a trick or use up dummy’s last entry — was therefore pointless. So Sobel led a low spade at trick two and wound up making more tricks on the deal than anyone else.