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Unbeatable Slam with 23 Points

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred in the Men’s Teams at the recent North American Championships in Atlanta. East started with a routine one-spade opening, and South doubled — a questionable action aimed at finding a heart fit. West injected a spade raise, perhaps because of the favorable vulnerability, and North tried two notrump. When East competed to three spades, South showed his diamond suit; North raised; and South ended the bid-‘em-up auction with a stab at slam.

6 D South
N-S Vul
S J 10 9 6 4
H K 2
D K 7
C Q 8 6 5

2 S
2 NT
5 D
1 S
3 S
4 D
6 D
S 5 3 2
H 10 9 5 4
D 3
C J 10 7 4 3
TableS A K Q 8 7
H Q J 7
D A 5 2
C 9 2

Lead: S 2
H A 8 6 3
D Q J 10 9 8 6 4

Despite only 23 total HCP, six diamonds was an excellent contract with any lead but a trump. South ruffed the opening spade lead and cashed two top clubs. A heart was led to the king, a heart to the ace, then a heart was ruffed in dummy. It was a simple matter to ruff the remaining heart, so the only loser was the trump ace.

What about a trump lead? If the defenders begin with ace and another diamond, declarer is unable to ruff any hearts in dummy. Of course he can throw one of his heart losers on the club queen; but this still leaves him a trick short and the slam should fail. On the surface this is true, but a careful analysis shows that declarer can succeed through a squeeze — a double squeeze, to be precise.

After leading all but one diamond and cashing two top clubs, North remains with: S J, H K-2, C Q-8. On the last diamond lead West must unguard hearts (in order to protect clubs), then North’s club eight has done its work and is discarded. East has no problem on this trick, as he still retains the spade ace and a heart stopper.

But wait! A heart is led to the king and the club queen is led to squeeze East. He must keep the high spade (else North’s jack is good), so he too must unguard hearts. The last trick is won by South’s heart eight.

Could there be a guardian angel for overbidders?

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek