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Declarer Elicits Defender’s Help

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred Monday in the World Bridge Championship currently in progress at the Sheraton Hotel in Bal Harbour. As North I was playing with my favorite partner, Bill Root of Boca Raton, a player of the highest caliber who is recognized as this country’s foremost bridge teacher. Root, South, had to reach deep into his bag of tricks to bring home a difficult three-notrump contract.

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

Lead: S J
S A Q 7 2
H A 7 5 2
D A Q 9 4
C 10

West led the spade jack to South’s queen, then the club 10 was led to dummy’s queen as West wisely played low. (Note that it does not help declarer to let the club 10 ride since he has no more clubs to lead.) The club ace was cashed, South shedding a heart, and another club was led to discover the bad news. On this trick East discarded the heart nine, a come-on signal, and South threw a spade. West dutifully shifted to his singleton heart: three, 10, ace.

Eight tricks were there for the taking — two spades, one heart, three diamonds and two clubs — but Root was in no hurry to cash out for down one. Instead he deviously returned a heart into the jaws of East, who hastened to cash the rest of that suit.

Meanwhile, West was feeling a little pinch; on the run of the hearts he let go all of his spades to protect the minor suits. When East finally exited with a spade to South’s ace, West was hopelessly squeezed. He was forced to part with a diamond to keep his club winner, and declarer scampered home with four diamond tricks and his contract.

Despite declarer’s elegant play, East was the culprit for squeezing his partner. This could have been avoided in two ways and provides a good lesson on squeeze defense. First, East could have refused to cash his last heart, thus relieving the pressure on his partner. Second, after cashing all his hearts, East could have returned a diamond, which destroys declarer’s communication for the squeeze.

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek