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The Step-Winkle

 by Richard Pavlicek

One of the many contributions of the late Terence Reese was the naming of various squeeze endings. I especially like his colorful terminology — words like “stepping-stone” and “winkle” are esoterically pleasing and easy to remember.

This month’s deal occurred last week in a practice match for the Boston Nationals. The unusual ending combined two of “Reese’s pieces” so I have dubbed it the “step-winkle” in his honor.

South dealsS A K J 8 4 3WestNorthEastSouth
E-W vulH Q J 41 NT
D A 4Pass2 HPass2 S
C 9 2Pass5 NTPass6 NT
S 9 7 6 5 2TableSPassPassPass
H 9 6 5 2H K 10 8 7
D J 10D 8 7 6 3 2
C K 5C Q 10 7 3
S Q 10
H A 3
D K Q 9 5
6 NT SouthC A J 8 6 4

After a routine Jacoby transfer bid, North’s jump to 5 NT said “pick a slam” and South chose 6 NT since he had only a doubleton spade. Scoring was matchpoints so the extra 10 points could be crucial.

West led the D J and declarer won the ace in dummy. This is the correct matchpoint play to retain chances for an overtrick. (At IMPs the diamond should be won in hand, but even this would not ensure 12 tricks.) Next came the H Q which held, then a spade to the queen as East pitched a diamond. Ouch! The 5-0 break blocked the run of the suit.

Declarer now cashed his diamonds (the 10 was likely to fall in view of West’s spade length); West pitched two hearts, and declarer threw a spade and a heart from dummy. Enter the step-winkle: Declarer next led the ace of clubs. If West played low, declarer would cash the H A and S 10 then exit with a club, using West as a stepping-stone to reach dummy. After some thought, West unblocked the C K under the ace. Now declarer overtook the S 10 to reach dummy, and eventually led a club toward the jack for a 12th trick.

[Addendum: As played, 6 NT could have been defeated if East does not pitch a diamond on the first spade lead. Then, after West unblocks the C K, East will have a long diamond to cash. Thanks to Jim Patrick for noting this.]

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© 1999 Richard Pavlicek