'A Cow flew By' is a well known Bridge saying. It refers to a play which makes no sense, following a small lapse of concentration. We've all been there as in Bridge it's easy to get distracted and make a silly mistake, whether that is forgetting you have a winner (or a loser), miscounting trumps or a million and one other things. Let's be honest, Bridge is a game of mistakes and it's almost impossible not to make one at some time or other.
I had the pleasure to kibitz the above hand in a recent teams match. The Badger Farm side was Steve and Pauline Davis playing East-West and Dick and Mary Killick playing North-South against a team from the Isle of Wight.
At both tables the bidding was broadly similar and both sides ended in 3NT. At one table nine tricks were made but at the other only eight, resulting in a swing of 450 or 10 imps. Let's look at the play and defence as it happened at each table.
First, with Dick and Mary sitting North-South, Mary led the 10 of spades. Dummy played low as of course did Dick as looking at dummy, his challenge was to scupper Declarer's chance of running dummy's clubs.
Declarer won with the Jack and at trick 2 finessed the 10 of clubs. Dick refused, giving Declarer a real problem getting to dummy so Declarer switched to the Queen of hearts hoping to access dummy subsequently with the Jack. However, Mary allowed the Queen to hold.
With little hope now of reaching the clubs, Declarer decided to play on diamonds and led the 6 which Dick won with the 8 and continued with a second diamond which Mary was allowed to win with the 10. At this point Mary played the King of hearts to smother the Jack (and promote her 9 as a winner) but Declarer ducked so she now continued with a third round which Declarer had to win with the Ace.
Declarer laid down the Ace and King of diamonds and the spotlight now fell on the defence. With the North cards Dick held Kx in both black suits and the 8 of hearts. Although discarding a club would break his cover, it was pretty obvious from the way Declarer had played that he couldn't get to dummy but really under pressure, it's not so obvious. Dick parted with the 8 of hearts, a fatal error as Declarer cashed one more diamond, Dick now discarding a small club. Declarer then played Ace and another spade which Dick won but was forced to give back a club on the thirteenth trick. Two club discards and keeping the 8 of hearts would have defeated 3NT.
At the other table Pauline was declarer and received the Queen of diamonds as the opening lead which she ducked. South continued with the 7 which she won with the King.
Pauline also set about the clubs and led the 10 but this time North took his King and returned a diamond which Pauline ducked, South returning a fourth round which she won with the Ace.
Pauline also sought entries to dummy so tempted the opposition with the Jack of spades. North mistakenly won with his King, hoping that a heart switch would now become the fifth trick and defeat the contract. Pauline finessed and the King of hearts was the setting trick.
If Pauline had paused to take stock, the heart finesse was an unnecessary risk as she had achieved nine tricks - She had already collected Ace and King of diamonds so could have played the Ace of hearts, the 6 of diamonds (discarding Dummy's second heart) then play Ace of spades, a small spade to dummy's Queen then the rest of dummy's clubs which would have been nine tricks.
An unfortunate result and expensive loss to the Badger Farm side where an initially smart defence by Dick and Mary could have defeated Declarer and a less good defence against Pauline gave her the opportunity to make her 3NT.
Two cows flew by, when Dick discarded his eight of hearts and Pauline took a heart finesse. The loss of 10 imps to Badger Farm was expensive as it could so easily have been a gain of 10 imps instead if only those two cows had not flown by...