The story so far: the contract is 3NT by South and you can see all 52 cards. All you have to do is say which card won the final setting trick for the defence...
West leads the 5 against the distinguished oncologist sitting South (who has played deceptively well hitherto, I should add — this is Table 1, after all). This runs to the Nine and Ace. I'd be tempted to try 10 now (which East would probably do well to duck) but declarer opts for a second club which goes to Ten, Jack and a diamond discard.
Next 10 runs to the Queen and West exits with a heart, ducked in dummy. East thinks for an age before taking Q and, rather than returning a passive heart, switches to a diamond to West's A. West mulls over his exit. An ice age comes and goes. The 10 eventually comes back, Jack ........?
Another eternity from East and J is allowed to hold the trick. Now three rounds of hearts, much sweating all round, to reach this position:
I realise that most poorbridge players glaze over when confronted with any sort of end-position, especially if the word "squeeze" is also to be found somewhere in the small print. But I will try to keep it simple.
Declarer, still needing three tricks, correctly guesses that 7 is a winner (indeed he has winners in all four suits!) and decides to cash it. On the last heart, East pitches 7, South 9 and West, in one of those absurd moments of respect for declarer's abilities, throws 2 (realising that the position is marked and he would be thrown in with a small club otherwise). But this is when the poorbridge really begins to kick in.
At trick 11, rather than claiming his contract, declarer plays K and another — embarking on an attempted suicide squeeze. Indeed, it's an exercise in the kind of auto-asphyxiation once so popular with Australian pop stars and Tory MPs. At first it seems harmless enough — J can be safely thrown and declarer can still breathe. (Meanwhile East discards 7).
But declarer must play another club at trick 12. Now that silk scarf really begins to bite and you can see the beads of sweat on his brow. East, also perspiring a little, concludes that since K and Q are both losers, it doesn't much matter which one he throws. In the end, he jettisons K. And declarer? Which winner should he keep?
The answer may seem obvious in retrospect but when no oxygen has reached your brain for five minutes, anything can happen.
Yes, declarer eventually lets fall the Ace of spades.
So West wins the last trick with 3. That's right, the three of spades. 3NT is one off and the defenders have one hand on the Swiss Pairs trophy.
The post mortem examination of the four-card ending reveals that, on 7 lead, the defence's cause is theoretically hopeless (everyone should know who's got what) but East's best pitch is 7. Declarer throws a loser and West does really well to throw 2 on the basis that declarer would have been good enough to underlead K to claim the last two (we'll never know).
Even so, declarer should make trivially by exiting with a small club, claiming the last two tricks in either hand. But when instead he plays K, East should play his part by pitching Q, the card he is known to hold. On the next club, he must throw K!! Now declarer is caught in a more genuine suicide squeeze. He knows (or should know) there is a small spade and a small diamond out, but who has what? There are clues, but East has given the defence a much better chance.
And what part did I, dummy, le mort, play in these grisly proceedings? Ah, that's another story .........
And the winner is
We had quite a few people send in answers to Nick's quiz question and they almost universally selected the beer card. "Clearly the answer to the quiz is the beer card, or the question would have been of no interest whatsoever," wrote Jimbob. Robin Zigmond went for the 6, suggesting that East accidentally discarded the beer card early in the play and then couldn't recover. Two correspondents seemed to miss the point and related entirely plausible lines of defence to take if off — the key to the question was the poor bridge in the title!
Nobody actually got the answer right, but Martin Carpenter was as close as makes no difference when he guessed the TWO of spades (I guess he plays upside down count). So Martin wins a year's subscription for free; everybody else — you owe us a tenner.