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 S Q 7 6 
 H T 7 3 
 D K Q J 9 7 4 
 C
 S 9 5 
 H A K Q 9 8 6 4 
 D  — 
 C A K J 2 
N
W    E
S
 S T 8 2 
 H  — 
 D 8 6 5 3 2 
 C T 7 6 5 3 
 S A K J 4 3 
 H J 5 2 
 D A T 
 C 9 8 4 

West
EG#1


double
4H
5H
all pass
North
Bruce


2D
4S
pass
East
EG#2

pass
pass
pass
pass
South
John

1S
2S
pass
5S

A major penalty card!

This hand came up at an Eastern Counties League match, Cambridge University vs Essex. It just so happens that both our opponents on this stanza were women. From Essex. Make of that what you will.

The bidding looks sensible through 5H, East judging that she was too strong to just overcall 4H. The Cambridge wheels came off at this point; I decided that Bruce's pass was forcing so he would have doubled with two heart losers. Maybe pass should be non-forcing (as looking at all four hands suggests), or maybe I should just double anyway, as I don't have much playing strength, and the 5-level belongs to the opponents. But I bid 5S.

Things could now get very bad for us. West might double, and cash a club and some hearts. If East wants to try for a telephone number, she can ruff the second heart without any risk of the contract making, switch to a diamond expecting to give a ruff, receive a second heart ruff and give a second diamond ruff. I would then have to explain yet another -1100 at the post-mortem.

Fortunately, this isn't exactly what happened. 5S was passed out, and West led the CA. Seeing dummy, she decided to switch to a heart. The HQ, to be precise. East failed to read this as bottom of a sequence, and ruffed.

At this point, the contract could still go four off on the obvious diamond return. But West, oblivious to her partner's ruff, attempted to cash the HK. I chose not to accept the lead, and although East did return a diamond to my ace, her partner had to play her major penalty card. I now drew trumps, overtook the DT and ran the suit, making the contract and winning the beer!