THE Scottish Cup Final featured numerous deals where game could be beaten but opportunities were missed. On this one Paul Barton and Cliff Gillis bid smoothly to the excellent 4H. There are 11 tricks with normal breaks, but the breaks were not normal. The auction told West that partner must be void in diamonds, so he led a diamond, specifically the two. Best defence now beats the contract by two tricks. Take a diamond ruff, then underlead the ace-king of spades twice to take two more ruffs. But something went wrong. East ruffed the diamond and returned a club. Declarer rapidly drew trump and claimed ten tricks with six hearts, three diamonds and a club.
We can only surmise that East interpreted the lead as a suit preference signal asking for a club return. Perhaps the sight of the ace of clubs in dummy might persuade her to try something else. If she cashes a top spade West can drop the queen, promising the jack: a clear entry for a second ruff to take the game one down.
On the rare occasions when you know you are giving partner a ruff on the opening lead the card you choose is a suit preference signal. Clubs looks the most likely entry, but perhaps West should choose a less blatant signal in case a spade return is better.
We can be sure that Spears and Murdoch, on current form, would defeat 4H, but they were not tested. In the other room North passed the 2D rebid, a distinctly pessimistic view.