Todays deal occurred last month in a side game at the North American Championships in Portland, Ore. After South opened one diamond, West overcalled in hearts and North raised diamonds. This was all the encouragement South needed to jump to game in notrump. Everything would have been fine if West led a heart; but West hit declarers weak spot with the spade queen lead and East signaled with the nine. Declarer did well to duck this trick. West continued with the spade jack and East played low to force the king.
Declarer was now in trouble, and he knew it; but there seemed to be no chance for nine tricks without establishing the diamond suit. The diamond ace was cashed, followed by another diamond to Wests king. Needless to say, West returned a spade and East rattled off the suit down one. Was there anything declarer could have done about this?
Yes, indeed. South missed his moment in the sun. With eight sure tricks and little hope of establishing a ninth trick without losing the lead, South should have returned a spade at trick three. As strange as this appears, it would not be missed by any expert. If the spades divide four-four, nothing is lost as declarer can afford to conceded a diamond after regaining the lead; and if the spades divide five-three (as appears likely), this maneuver gives South an extra chance.
What is that extra chance? A squeeze! West is very likely from his overcall to have both diamonds and hearts stopped, so watch what happens. East must take his spade tricks (else he will never get them), and declarer discards diamonds from both hands. After the last spade, East will probably return a heart (though it makes no difference). South wins the heart king, cashes the diamond ace and runs the club suit. On the last club winner West must unguard one of the red suits.
© 1986 Richard Pavlicek