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Deal of the Week (Aug 11, 2006) Click here for Archives

The Auction:
West   North   East   South
            1       1     3NT
all pass

West dutifully leads the 8. Your play to this trick is quite crucial, and you rise to the occasion by playing the Q. If East ducks, you will score a second heart trick by leading up to your King. If East wins this trick, he cannot attack hearts without losing a trick. East decides to win the trick with the A and switches to the ♠8. You try the 9, which loses to the Queen. West plays another heart, East cover's dummy's card and you win the King. You play three rounds of diamonds, East follows to two of them, and discards an encouraging club on the third round. You continue with a spade to the 10, which loses to the King. West plays a club. Do you finesse?

If East holds the doubleton ♣Q, you can of course make the hand by cashing the A-K, dropping the Queen. East has shown up with 5 hearts, 2 diamonds, and seems to be short in spades, and hence holds at least 3 clubs. When West switches to a club, you therefore decide to go up with the ♣A. You play a spade to the Ace, East discarding a heart. You now know for sure that East started with 2-5-2-4.

Here is the position that you expect:

 3 Deal  
 984  Q6

When you play your last diamond, East is strip-squeezed. If East discards a club, you will cash the ♣K, dropping the Queen. If East discards a heart instead, you will exit a heart to East's Jack, endplaying him to lead clubs.

 KQ432 Deal  85
 82  AJ973
 1096  J5
 982  Q654

Note that the contract would have been defeated routinely if you played the 10 at trick 1. East would cover with the Jack, and you have no winning options. If you win the trick, then West would be able to play a heart through the Queen when he gets in. If you let the Jack hold, East will continue with the Ace and another heart, and the strip-squeeze will not operate as you will not have a losing heart, and hence will be unable to endplay East. Losing cards are sometimes as important as winning cards!

There is flexibility in the timing of the play, but the strip-squeeze is essential to make the contract. Also, 3NT from partner's side might have been better, as an opening heart lead provides the ninth trick. Nevertheless, your exuberence in bidding did create excitement in the play!

Bridge Baron's double dummy solver agrees that playing the Q was required to make the contract. The double dummy solver also confirms that our basic plan to strip-squeeze East was the only legitimate line of play for the contract (even though there is flexibility in the order in which the play proceeds).

Bridge Baron's line of play:
Bridge Baron passed the first test by playing the Q at trick 1. When East won and played a spade, Baron played the 9, losing to West's Queen. A heart came back, Baron tried the 10, covered by the Jack and King. Baron now played a club to the Ace, a mistake, which did not matter on this deal. Baron now cashed 4 diamonds, East discarding a club and a heart. Baron now cashed the ♠A, removing East's exit card in that suit, and played a heart. East was welcome to cash 2 heart tricks, but had to concede 2 clubs at the end.

Bridge Baron's play of a club to the Ace would have been costly if East's distribution was 3-5-2-3. After cashing diamonds, if Baron tried to duck a spade, West can play a second round of club, killing the squeeze. If instead Baron tried to cash the 4 rounds of diamonds and the ♠A, East can defend strongly by keeping the 9, Queen and another club, and a spade. If Baron tried to throw East in with a heart, East could play a spade to West, who can cash 2 spade tricks. You can experiment with the deal by downloading the ppl file below, and playing it with Bridge Baron.
Par Contract Analysis:
The par contract on this deal is 3NT by North-South.

Bridge Baron deal No : 14621306294056424090999027850

You can download this deal in PPL format, and view it with Bridge Baron here :
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