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Deuces and Treys

Recently I came across an old cocktail napkin, on which I had scribbled part of a five-card ending in a notrump contract. Alas, I had written down only the defenders’ hands:

S
H K J
D
C 10 9 8
TableS K J
H
D A
C K Q

Beneath the hands I had scribbled some curious notes:

North-South can win all five tricks against any defense.
North-South have three deuces, three treys, and three voids.
North has two treys of the same color and more spades than South.

Can you reconstruct the ending? And tell me who was on lead?

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Solution

Since six of the North-South cards must be deuces and treys, only four high cards can be used. The obvious attempt is to include the three missing aces and a major-suit queen to allow a successful finesse for four tricks. The fifth trick might then be a long card in the finessed major (e.g., A-Q-3 opposite 2) or the result of a squeeze. Alternately, you could remove an ace and extend the length of the finessed major (e.g., A-Q-10-3 opposite 2).

While the above attempts allow many ways to win five tricks, they all fail to meet the stated conditions. I won’t go into the various hangups, as you would have experienced the frustration if you tried. I am convinced that no construction is possible with a queen.

Remarkably, the solution requires an ending with only three winners (aces) and a squeeze that gains two tricks; the critical fourth card being the C J. The squeeze is one of the most bizarre I have ever seen. Here’s the ending, which is unique, including exact spot cards:

S A 3
H A 2
D
C 3
S
H K J
D
C 10 9 8
TableS K J
H
D A
C K Q
S
H
D 3 2
C A J 2

North must be on lead, and the H A (not the S A) must be led, which squeezes East in three suits. Pitching the D A is immediately fatal, establishing two tricks for South; pitching a spade loses just one trick for the moment, but North’s established spade winner will squeeze East again. East does best to pitch a club, surrendering only one trick, since West guards the third round of clubs.

But wait! Now West gets squeezed in hearts and clubs when North cashes the S A. In essence, a double squeeze that gains two tricks.

In regard to squeeze theory, the tiered club threat (one defender stops second round, other the third round) is similar to the historical “Bonney’s squeeze” (circa 1940), but other aspects differ. A key ingredient is the extended diamond threat (South needs both diamonds, else East could pitch the D A and never be squeezed again). For an extended threat to be significant without an entry in the same suit is extremely rare.

What’s it called? Who knows, but the terms saturated (threats in four suits) and progressive (two-trick gainer) seem appropriate; so it’s your everyday “saturated progressive squeeze.” Don’t leave home without it.

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© 2010 Richard Pavlicek