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Running Trumps Can Work Miracles

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from a local club game, illustrates an ending that you don’t see very often, but one that a good player should realize through sound technique. As I continually preach to my students, you don’t have to understand squeeze plays to execute them; all you have to do is lead your winners. (A prayer sometimes helps.)

4 H South
None Vul
S A K 8 2
H 9 5
D 10 8
C Q 8 6 5 3

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

Lead: C J
S Q J 10
H A K Q J 8 6
D K 9 2
C 2

After two passes South opened one heart, North responded one spade, and East ventured two clubs — not a healthy overcall, but it was his turn to bid. South jumped to three hearts (invitational) and North continued to game.

West led the club jack, which held, then continued with the 10, which South ruffed. Trumps were drawn in three rounds, as North and East let go a club. In declarer’s eyes this was a nothing hand, so he cashed four spade tricks and led a diamond to the king. Making four; next hand.

South’s attitude would be acceptable at rubber bridge; but this was a matchpoint pair game, where overtricks are important. He should have given some consideration to his chances of making an 11th trick. Declarer’s play of leading up to the diamond king was a feeble attempt based on the bidding; East would not pass originally if he held three quick tricks and a five-card suit.

Instead South should follow this advice: When there appears to be no straightforward play to make your contract (or in this case, an overtrick), lead your solid suits. This means leading all of your trumps — a procedure that goes against the grain of many players because they lose their security blanket.

If declarer cashes all of his hearts and then his spades, he will reach a two-card ending with North on lead. North will have the diamond 10 and club queen; South will have the king-nine of diamonds. East must keep a high club, so only one diamond; then a diamond lead to West’s ace allows South to win the last trick with the nine.

The ending is known as a “vice squeeze,” but that’s unimportant. What’s important is to lead those trumps.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek