Main     Article 7A11 by Richard Pavlicek    

Apparent Danger

Opening in a “convenient” minor can sometimes overexcite partner, as evidenced by today’s deal. After South’s one-club opening, North can hardly be faulted for venturing past three notrump, but danger was lurking at the five level.

5 C by South

None Vul
S 3 2
H 5
D A 7 6 2
C A K Q J 10 5
S K J 8 7
H Q 10 4
D Q 5
C 9 4 3 2
TableS A 10 9
H J 9 8 6 3
D 10 9 8 4 3
C
Lead: S 7S Q 6 5 4
H A K 7 2
D K J
C 8 7 6

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

3 C
4 D
5 C
East

Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 C
3 NT
4 H

West led the S 7 to East’s ace, and East returned the 10 which held; then a third spade lead was ruffed in dummy. South cashed one top trump to get the bad news (East pitched a heart), then paused to consider his options. The obvious play was to try for a diamond ruff in hand before pulling trumps, but the danger of an overruff was apparent. Another possibility was to finesse the D J — surely a favorite based on the trump division. Which play would you choose?

An expert would choose neither. There is another chance that is better still, a double squeeze. After cashing one club, declarer should win his top hearts. (If West could ruff the second heart, it would be easy to overruff and proceed to ruff two diamonds, since West’s shape would be 4=1=4=4.) Next ruff a heart in dummy and lead the remaining trumps.

On the bridge certainty that West has the S K, the squeeze is sure to work unless West started with four (or five) hearts, which is very unlikely (especially after East’s heart discard). As the cards lie the ending is really just a simple squeeze against East, but it would function just as well if West also could protect diamonds. To verify this, switch the D 10 and the H 10; note then that West must ruff the third heart to postpone the squeeze, but he will crumble when the last trump is led.

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© 1994 Richard Pavlicek