The Real Deal


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Lead low from a doubleton?

This deal comes from one of the best players ever to come on a bridge cruise with me, Dennis Heller. While cruising from Miami to San Francisco, he impressed me with his play of one of my lesson deals. A few weeks later, he played this similar deal and reported it to me. He held:

♠ —    A K Q J 10 7 6 3    A 9   ♣ 5 4 3

With both sides vulnerable, his right-hand opponent opened 3. Dennis jumped to 4, raised to 5 by his partner. Such a bid is not only slam invitational, but asks for a control in the opponent’s suit. Partner rates to have some pretty good stuff in the black suits, so Dennis not only accepted the invitation, but drove all the way to the heart grand slam.

LHO led the J and dummy was disappointing. Dennis looked to be a trick short:

Dlr:
East
Vul:
Both
North
♠ A 8 7 6 5
9 4 2
10 2
♣ A K 2
South
♠ —
A K Q J 10 7 6 3
A 9
♣ 5 4 3

I like to count losers in a suit contract, but a quick check of winners shows 12 (one spade, eight hearts, one diamond and two clubs). Looking at it the other way, declarer can throw one of his minor-suit losers on dummy’s A, but has to find a parking place for the other small minor-suit card.

One possibility is to set up the spades. If they are 4–4, that will provide a discard. There are lots of dummy entries, especially if declarer is careful with the trump spots. He wins the A and plays the A (East shows out). Next comes a heart to dummy, but declarer carefully preserves the 3 for a later entry. The cross to dummy is the 7 to the 9, West following with his second and final trump.

On the ♠A, what should declarer discard? This is a very important play. If spades aren’t 4–4, declarer is going to have to hope for a squeeze. The 9 is an important card. Remember that East opened 3 and West led the J. East is the only one who can guard that 9. Accordingly, declarer should throw a little club and keep the 9.

Everyone follows to the ♠A and to the next spade, which is ruffed — high, of course. Declarer goes back to dummy by playing the carefully preserved 3 to the 4 and ruffs the third round of spades, all following again.

Now, declarer crosses to a high club and ruffs the fourth round of spades. This time East shows out. Spades were 5–3. Is all hope lost?

No. Experienced players will recognize the automatic double-squeeze. But even newbies have a chance. Simply run all the trumps. The ending is going to look like this with one trump to play:

Dlr:
East
Vul:
Both
North
♠ 5
♣ K 2
South
♠ —
10
9
♣ 5

When South cashes that trump, he knows that West will have to keep his good spade. Indeed, West throws a club. The now-useless spade is thrown from dummy and what can East do? He has to keep a high diamond (or the 9 would be good). Who is keeping clubs guarded? Nobody. Dummy has to take the last two tricks with the ♣K and ♣2. Here was the Real Deal:

Dlr:
East
Vul:
Both
North
♠ A 8 7 6 5
9 4 2
10 2
♣ A K 2
West
♠ K Q 10 4 3
8 5
J 3
♣ J 9 8 6
East
♠ J 9 2
K Q 8 7 6 5 4
♣ Q 10 7
South
♠ —
A K Q J 10 7 6 3
A 9
♣ 5 4 3

After the J lead, there was nothing the defense could have done to wriggle out of this one. An inspired low diamond lead (yes, from a doubleton!) would have prevented this double squeeze.