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Bridge 12/31
Best of the year to end the year
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    The International Bridge Press Association hands out annual awards for the best bidding, declarer play, defense and anything really meritorious by a junior.
    Because this year the overall standard was so high, let's look this week at the four winners, and two others who came close.
    First, declarer play. This deal arose during the match between Israel and Italy at the European Open Team Championship last August in Warsaw, Poland.
    Against three no-trump, David Birman from Israel (West) led the club seven. Alfredo Versace from Italy (South) played low from the dummy and his hand, permitting David Fohrer (East) to win with his jack. Now East unexpectedly shifted to the diamond three. Why didn't East continue clubs?
    Versace decided this switch meant that East had no entry card outside clubs.
    When declarer played his diamond two, West won with his diamond nine and played the club three to dummy's king. Now South carefully led dummy's diamond eight (unblocking the suit), which was covered by the jack, queen and king. West shifted to the heart queen, but declarer won with dummy's ace, played a heart to his king (dropping West's 10), cashed his club ace, led a spade to dummy's king, and took the two heart winners, discarding a spade from his hand. West saw that if he kept a high spade, he would be thrown in to lead away from his 10-5 of diamonds into South's A-7. So West discarded his spade queen and ace, hoping East had the jack. No luck -- Versace had two spades, four hearts, one diamond and two clubs.
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