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Christmas Came Early This Year

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred Tuesday at the Ft. Lauderdale Bridge Club’s annual Christmas party. The auction at one table was typical for duplicate bridge — everyone was in the bidding and no one held sound values.

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

Lead: S K
S 10 9 3
H J 5
D A K 8 4 2
C A 9 5

The final three-notrump contract was aggressive but had its chances, especially after West led the spade king. This blocked the spade suit and prevented the defenders from cashing four fast tricks. A low spade (or another suit) lead would have been better, but West can hardly be criticized for his choice.

West shifted to the heart nine at trick two, ducked to the king; then East cashed the spade jack (West could not afford to overtake) and shifted to the diamond three. Letting this ride to the jack was obviously a losing option, so declarer won the ace and proceeded to cash his winners. Perhaps some pressure could be put on West, who was marked from the bidding and play to hold the missing high cards. The ending was not typical for a squeeze, because declarer has two losers remaining (usually declarer must be able to win all but one trick), but strange things sometimes happen when a defender is forced to discard.

As the clubs and hearts were cashed, West had to make two discards: The first, a diamond, was painless; but next West had to let go one of his good spades to protect diamonds. At this point South remained with S 10, D K-8; West held S A, D Q-7; and North held S 8-7, D J. A spade was led to West, who had no effective defense — a low diamond would be taken in dummy to win the spade eight; the diamond queen would splash honors around the table and South’s eight would be high.

Nicely played… but it didn’t really happen that way. The defense went sour when East chucked the spade jack on the opening lead. So Christmas came early for declarer, as he could establish his ninth trick in spades with little effort.

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek