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Finishing second in a major bridge event is like shooting 280 at the U.S. Open and losing to someone who shot 279: The winners played scarcely better.

In the Blue Ribbon Pairs at the ACBL's 2004 Fall Championships, Robert Levin and Steve Weinstein, East-West, produced the outstanding deal of that event. When North-South stopped at three clubs, Levin found the remarkable bid of three spades as East. I advocate bids like this only for players capable of them. Since Levin had length in clubs and hearts, he inferred that Weinstein's hand was short in those suits, hence long in spades.

South should have doubled or tried 3NT, and when instead he went to four clubs, the defense made him regret it. Weinstein, on opening lead, judged that Levin had length in hearts and clubs, else how could he know West had spades? So Levin's hand was short in diamonds, and Weinstein therefore led the nine of diamonds.

South played dummy's ace (an error), and Levin ruffed and led a spade. If South ducked, West would win and give East another diamond ruff with the ace of hearts to come. South instead took the ace of spades, picked up the trumps and led a diamond to the ten, but he had no re-entry to his hand to repeat the finesse. He led a heart, but Levin took his ace, and the defense cashed two spades. Down one.

Weinstein-Levin were runners-up in this prestigious event. With more opportunities like this, they'd have won it all.

West dealer

Neither side vulnerable

10 9
J 9 6 4 3
A K J 10
A 3
K J 6 4
Q 8
Q 9 8 5 3 2
Q 7 5 2
A 10 7 5 2
8 6 5 4
A 8 3
7 6 4
Q J 10 9 7 2
1 1 Pass2
Pass2 Pass3
PassPass3 (!!)4
All Pass
Opening lead -- Choose it

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