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Unusual Squeeze Eludes Declarer

  by Richard Pavlicek

As you read this, the Southeastern Regional enters its final day of play at the Sheraton Bal Harbour. Today’s deal, from the Men’s Pairs, spawned a variety of results. I will describe the bidding and play at one table, which led to a challenging slam contract.

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

Lead: H 7
S A J 9
H 2
D A K 9 7 3
C A K J 3

North’s opening leaves something to be desired — an air-sickness bag? — but bold bidding is rewarded far more often than punished. South responded two diamonds, North rebid his sturdy heart suit, and South put on his Blackwood cape before settling in six notrump — certainly reasonable with 20 points.

East sensed that the foul distribution would hinder declarer, so he doubled to ask for a heart lead (dummy’s suit). West obliged, and East allowed North’s king to win the first trick. The heart queen was taken by the ace, as South and West threw spades (West signaled with the eight). After some thought, East shifted to a diamond (an excellent play), which rode to dummy’s queen.

Declarer decided to rely on the diamond suit to break (instead of the spade finesse), so he discarded the spade jack and a diamond on the jack-10 of hearts. After running the clubs, he was locked in his hand and West had to make a diamond trick — down one.

Consider what would happen if declarer had won the first diamond lead with the king instead of the queen. A club is led to dummy’s queen to cash the hearts, then the clubs are run to reach a four-card ending. North holds Q-7-4 in spades and the blank queen of diamonds; South holds the blank ace of spades and A-9-7 in diamonds.

What will West keep? If two spades, all of South’s diamonds will be good after winning the queen. If one spade, all of North’s spades will be good after winning the ace. An extended-threat crisscross squeeze — not your everyday bridge ending.

It is interesting to note that an original diamond-jack or club lead, followed by a diamond lead when East wins the heart ace, would tangle declarer’s communication and break up the squeeze.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek