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Lucky Sevens

Somebody probably should have bid 3 NT — though no bargain, it surely has a better chance than this contract.

5 C South

None Vul
S J 3 2
H Q J
D A K 7 2
C Q 7 3 2
Table
S A K 7
H 7 3 2
D J 8
C A J 9 8 6

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 D
3 C
4 C
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 C
3 S
5 C

Against 5 C West leads the S 10 and South can make his contract. Curiously, if any seven were switched with the six (of the same suit), South could be defeated. What are the exact East-West hands?

Oh, yes, I have to tell you that East has the ace of hearts.

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Solution

At first glance it appears that none of the sevens can be significant, but let’s look closer. Consider the S 7. For it to be significant, a probable layout is that East holds the protected queen and the six-spot, which allows declarer to transfer the sole spade guard to West by covering the 10 with the jack (or by leading the jack later). If the S 7 and S 6 were switched, this transfer would not be possible.

Now consider the diamond suit: North’s D 7 would be a natural trick if East held 10-9 doubleton (South runs the jack) so this may be the diamond layout.

For the relationship of the C 7 and C 6 to be significant, the former must be a key entry to dummy. This seems unlikely with the C Q in dummy, so it must be necessary to spend the queen early in finessing — which suggests West may have the singleton C 10.

But what about the heart seven? This is the most difficult to imagine, but it might come into significance in a bizarre squeeze scenario if one player held H 10-9-8.

Consider this construction:

S J 3 2
H Q J
D A K 7 2
C Q 7 3 2
S 10 9 8
H K 10 9 8
D Q 6 5 4 3
C 10
TableS Q 6 5 4
H A 6 5 4
D 10 9
C K 5 4
S A K 7
H 7 3 2
D J 8
C A J 9 8 6

The S 10 lead is won by the king (optionally, declarer could cover in dummy). South leads the D J, ducked (best defense to limit declarer’s entries to dummy) then a diamond is led to the king. The C Q is led (East ducks and South unblocks the eight), then trumps are drawn with another finesse. South leads a heart, which West must win to continue spades; jack, queen, ace. This leaves the following ending:

S 3
H Q
D A 7
C 7
S 8
H 10 9
D Q 6
C
TableS 5 4
H A 6 5
D
C
S 7
H 7 3
D
C 9 6

South leads the C 6 and West is squeezed in three suits! Notice the power of the seven of hearts! If West lets go another heart, the H 7 can be established by force after South discards his spade loser on the D A.

Observe that this squeeze would not work if East held the H 7 (and South the H 6), nor if East held the S 7 (and South the S 6). If the D 7 were switched with the D 6, West could defeat the contract simply by cover the D J. And don’t forget that C 7 entry to dummy.

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© 1995 Richard Pavlicek