Analyses 7V24  MainChallenge

# Counselor for the Defense

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

During the month of February 2001, these six defensive-play problems were published on the Internet as a contest open to all bridge players. On each problem South is declarer, and you are defending as West or East. The bidding, opening lead and early plays were given. In each case you must select your next lead.

## John Reardon Wins!

This contest had 204 participants from 68 locations, and the average score was 37.19. Hail to the king! John Reardon of London, England topped everyone with a score of 58. John also won my “Notrump Wonderland” contest, so this was certainly no fluke. Close behind in second place was Manuel Paulo of Portugal with 57, and third place went to Francois Dellacherie of France with 55. A European medal sweep!

Bidding is standard (except as noted) and you use standard leads and signals.
For a reference see Standard American Bridge. Assume all players are experts.

Each problem offered six plausible leads. The merit of each is scored on a 1-to-10 scale, based on my judgment, so a perfect score would be 60. These problems were not easy, which might also be a hint that defense is an important area to study.

## Problem 1

 Matchpoints 10 8 4 West North East South E-W vul Q 8 2 You Dummy Partner Declarer A Q J 5 Pass 1 NT Q 8 2 Pass 3 NT Pass Pass J 9 7 6 Pass A J 9 7 9 3 10 9 4 3 NT South

 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th 1. W 6 8 K A 2. S 2 J 4 3

910115
79157
1085225
J611456
72105
A121

If you’re going to attack, it is better to lead the 10. On a lucky day you might catch partner with A-J-x-x-x or K-J-x-x-x and beat the contract outright. But that’s a long shot, and it’s a dubious assumption that an expert declarer would play this way with a hand such as A-Q-x-x K-x-x K-x-x-x K-x. The spade lead at Trick 2 would fail almost any time the aces are split (West would shift to the suit of his partner’s ace). I think a heart to the queen is stronger — it would always work if West had only three hearts to the ace (nothing would work on the actual West hand) and if East captured the Q with the ace, a spade return is likely since East would not know his partner had only four spades. Another reasonable line would be to run the diamonds first.

At IMPs the club shift would get the top score since it might set the contract, but at matchpoints you have to consider overtricks. The presence of the 8 in dummy is an omen. When South has A-J-x-(x), the lead of the 10 puts West in an untenable position (no pun intended), offering declarer an 11th trick. Consider this layout:

 Matchpoints 10 8 4 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th E-W vul Q 8 2 1. W 6 8 K A A Q J 5 2. S 2 J 4 3 Q 8 2 3. W 10? 2 5 J J 9 7 6 K 3 4. S 4 7 Q 3 A J 9 7 10 5 3 5. N 10 5 5 7 9 3 10 8 7 6 6. N 5 6 K 3 10 9 4 K 7 6 5 7. S Q 9 2 7 A Q 5 2 8. S 2 9 A 8 K 6 4 9. N Q 10 4 9 K 4 2 10. N J 6 6 ? 3 NT South A J 3 Declarer can win 11 tricks

On the 10 shift, declarer wins in hand (it makes no difference if he covers in dummy) and leads a heart to the queen. Then, unblock the 10; cross to K; Q; run the diamonds (pitching a heart), and West is history — though it is possible declarer could misguess the ending. If West exits passively at Trick 3, the endplay cannot be effected.

Since declarer would always play a spade with the above hand, and probably not when the 10 shift would gain, I think a passive defense is called for. I gave top billing to the 9 (versus 7) because it clarifies the diamond position and alleviates partner’s discarding problem. If you led a third spade, East might pitch a heart (it looks innocent), after which declarer could negotiate 11 tricks with inspired play.

Dale Freeman: Passive and maybe messing their communication. At IMPs, the J hoping partner has the K.

Alan Kravetz: South has approximately 7 HCP outside of spades and diamonds. If it’s A-K, a heart switch is needed. If split, a club switch is needed. Split is more likely, but this would hurt if South has the J.

Francois Dellacherie: By elimination. The J is the “unlucky expert” play at matchpoints! It’s the best way to beat the normal 3 NT if partner has the K, but if declarer has it, disaster! The  10 is also dangerous if declarer has A-J; the 10 would be covered all around, declarer would lead a heart toward dummy, and endplay you at trick 11. … That leaves the 7 and 9 as safe leads. …

Tonci Tomic: A heart is out of the question; declarer must have the K because he would not risk the contract after a spade lead. A diamond can wait. The  10 is not safe if declarer has A-Q-x-x K-x-x K-x A-J-x-x … I can be strip squeezed. …

Frans Buijsen: I would play the J at IMPs, but it may give an important overtrick at matchpoints.

Shyam Sashital: Playing IMPs or rubber bridge, I would now lead the J. … At matchpoints, the risk that declarer has the K and will make an extra trick is high. Best play is passive… Now declarer has three spades, one heart, four diamonds and one club. If he has the A-J, he makes 10 tricks but not 11. …

John Reardon: If you are going to shoot for a top, then lead the J and, if you are lucky, declarer’s hearts will be 10-x-x and you will be hailed as a hero. However, I think it is more likely that declarer has something like: A-Q-x-x K-x-x K-x-x-x A-x, where a club switch will be more successful. It certainly seems better at matchpoints to play the 10 and I think it is better at IMPs too, considering declarer’s chosen line of play.

Manuel Paulo: No chance with spades or diamonds. The J is tempting, but with A-Q-5-2 10-x-x K-x-x A-K-x or similar, South would have claimed nine tricks after the lead. Though it is a weak hypothesis (partner needs A-J-x-x-x) it is the only real one.

Lydia Stern: Don’t tell me declarer had nine tricks (four diamonds, three clubs and two spades) and went fishing. I’d rather have a heart attack then attack hearts on this hand.

Neelotpal Sahai: The defense’s fifth trick can come only in clubs. Therefore, clubs have to be attacked before declarer sets up his ninth trick.

Per-Ola Cullin: The K is most likely with South. He wouldn’t fool around with spades holding, say, A-Q-x-x x-x K-x-x A-K-x-x. The 10 will give us a fair chance even to set declarer.

Subbu Viswanathan: If South is a type who could open 1 NT on 14, then J may be OK. It looks like he has 16, and partner (bless him) has K-J-x-x-x.

Gyula Argay: … This defeats the contract if South’s cards are A-Q-x-x K-x-x K-x-x-x A-x.

Bill Jacobs: Partner has one more key card. I’m going to assume that if declarer held A-Q-x-x 10-x-x K-x-x A-K-x, he would start with four rounds of diamonds in order to put us under discarding pressure. So no J. I’ll play declarer for A-Q-x-x K-x-x K-x-x A-x-x instead (or similar).

Olivier La Spada: Assuming my partner does not have the K, otherwise declarer has K and A-K, and so has nine tricks. My only chance is to find partner with A-J-x-x or K-J-x-x-x.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Though the J looks spectacular, declarer wouldn’t be jeopardizing the contract for the sake of an overtrick. If partner has K-J-x-x-x, the 10 shift actually beats the hand.

Raul Martino: South has the A and two kings: If in clubs and diamonds, the contract was cool without taking the risk to lose four tricks in hearts; if in hearts and clubs, declarer can make only eight tricks (unless he has four clubs); if in hearts and diamonds we have to establish the clubs before South can make his ninth trick in hearts.

Charles Blair: If declarer has 15 HCP and does not have the K, he could have cashed at least nine tricks. I’m hoping he has A-x or K-x.

Onno Eskes: Declarer has the K, otherwise he would have taken his nine top tricks. Declarer has the K, otherwise we can’t prevent him from taking three spades, one heart, two diamonds and three clubs. So partner has the A or K. Let’s hope he has five of them, including the jack. We must hurry before declarer sets up his ninth trick (in hearts).

Bernard Pascal: Declarer is guarded in hearts or else he is taking a big risk. Therefore, he is looking for his ninth trick to start with. It follows that he holds A-Q, K, K and either the A or K. …

Leonard Helfgott: Partner with 6-8 HCP has at most one other top card: If the K, declarer has time for three spades, one heart, two diamonds and three clubs; if the K, declarer would have cashed nine tricks… Therefore, to beat the contract partner must have K-J-x-x-x or A-J-x-x-(x). The defense shouldn’t be affected by form of scoring.

Steve Whitman: Declarer’s play suggests he has both red kings and one club honor; if so, a club shift is the best bet.

## Problem 2

 IMPs A Q J 10 3 West North East South Both vul A 2 You Dummy Partner Declarer 10 6 1 Pass 1 NT A K 5 3 Pass 3 Pass 3 NT 4 2 Pass Pass Pass Q 10 4 A J 5 4 3 Q 10 6 3 NT South

 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th 1. W 4 6 K 8 2. E 2 Q A 10

10102613
493819
473015
Q5147
535828
J23819

The appearance of the Q suggests declarer might have a doubleton. But is this really possible? Would South bid 3 NT with Q-x on this auction? Surely, he would prefer 3 with five cards, so what shape could he possible have? I see no logical answer. South must have four diamonds, and his play of the queen was simply to bait you into establishing his ninth trick. Don’t fall for it!

Clearly, a shift is in order. A spade may look safe, but that’s only temporary. Consider this typical layout:

 IMPs A Q J 10 3 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th Both vul A 2 1. W 4 6 K 8 10 6 2. E 2 Q A 10 A K 5 3 3. W 4? 3 K 5 4 2 K 8 7 6 4. E 5 7 10 A Q 10 4 9 8 6 5 5. N A 6 9 2 A J 5 4 3 K 2 6. N Q 7 3 3 Q 10 6 8 7 4 7. N J 8 7 5 9 5 8. N 10 6 9 J K J 7 3 9. N A 4 2 6 Q 9 8 7 10. N K 7 9 10 3 NT South J 9 2 continued below…

After East wins the K, it makes no difference what he returns. Declarer would simply cash winners to reach:

 NT win 2 — Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th 2 11. N 3! 8 J Q — West is endplayed 5 3 — — Q 4 9 8 — — Q 8 — K J — North leads J

Alternatively, West might blank his Q and keep the J. Declarer has to guess what to do, but I’m betting he’d get it right, particularly since West didn’t shift to a heart at Trick 3.

The defense can break up this end position by leading hearts twice, hence West must begin the attack at Trick 3. (Note that declarer cannot benefit by accepting the free heart finesse, since he has no side entry to his hand.) Assume declarer wins the A and leads a low spade. East must rise with the king (ducking gives declarer the extra entry needed to develop a diamond trick) and lead a second heart, which seals declarer’s fate.

The choice of which heart to lead is interesting. Clearly, the queen is out (that’s a gift). Either the 10 or four would work in my layout, but the 10 is better. If you led the four and South’s hearts were K-J-8-x, he could succeed at double-dummy. Further, the lead of the 10 is apt to lure declarer into taking the second-round heart finesse, which nets a two-trick set.

John Reardon: I imagine declarer’s hand to be similar to: x-x K-J-9-x Q-9-8-7 J-x-x, so I must not continue diamonds or I will set up declarer’s ninth trick before we get five. It looks tempting to play a spade through, but if declarer reads the position you will be mercilessly squeezed by the run of the spades. A club can never really gain. Therefore a heart switch is indicated and the best chance to fool declarer is by switching to the 10. Declarer will almost certainly win this with the ace to avoid blocking the hand and later may well finesse against East for the Q (after knocking out the K). That would result in a most satisfying two-trick defeat.

Francois Dellacherie: If declarer is serious, he doesn’t have the two major kings and only Q-x in diamonds. Trying to cash out in diamonds would just give declarer an easy ninth trick. If partner has the K, the 10 beats it easily (leading the 4 achieves nothing; declarer ducks a club). If partner has the K, the 10 will still beat it in numerous cases. …

Bill Powell: Playing another diamond sets up declarer’s ninth trick while he still has a (presumed) major king. The  Q won’t help much if declarer has K-J-x. I prefer the 10 to the four since (a) it may persuade declarer to go wrong with K-J-x and (b) I may well have to discard it later anyway.

Josh Sinnett: A diamond is definitely out at this point (declarer has not rebid 3 NT with Q-x). A spade won’t give anything away, but it allows declarer to maintain transportation. A heart, though, doesn’t give anything away and will break up any squeeze possibilities.

Arvind Ranasaria: A passive spade shift is self-defeating because on the fifth spade you will have no good discard. A club shift is more dangerous than hearts. …

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: An expert declarer wouldn’t have bid 3 NT with both major kings and only Q-x (this being the only case when diamonds need to be cashed out immediately). If declarer is missing K and has K-J, hearts should be played twice to break up the squeeze against you.

Onno Eskes: Declarer has Q-9-8-7, K, not K, and probably J and J. He will drive out the K, take his spade tricks…, strip-squeezing you. The only way to avert this is to break communications, so I have to play a heart — not the queen in case declarer has the jack of course.

Ufuk Cotuk: If both major kings are in South’s hand, then we have no defense. Most likely he has the K, and if I play a heart now we can lock him in dummy; we will win three diamonds, one spade and one club.

Manuel Paulo: Diamonds should be K-2/Q-9-8-7, and I must switch. With both the hidden kings South has nine tricks. The  Q is wrong almost whenever partner lacks the jack of this suit; … the 4 (or 10) is right. …

Gareth Birdsall: We should play a heart now, so if dummy wins and clears spades, then partner can play another heart through. We can then wait for our tricks. This works even against K-J-x-x for declarer unless we lead the queen. …

Radu Mihai: Declarer has for sure four diamonds, probably the K, and maybe the J and J. Partner probably has the K. The 4 (won of course in dummy) will make partner when in with the K to play another heart, taking from declarer any chance to throw me in.

Tonci Tomic: … I have to guard against declarer holding x-x K-J-x Q-9-8-7 x-x-x-x. After a spade return, … I would be squeezed in three suits. …

Lydia Stern: If I bid 3 NT on K-x K-x-x-x-x Q-x J-x-x-x, my Dad will deprive me of ice cream for good. Hope South’s partner is equally stern.

Barry Rigal: A tough one. … it looks as if I need partner to have the J and the K. If declarer has both major-suit kings, he has nine tricks; and if partner has the K, shifting to a heart into the K-J won’t hurt.

Sandy Barnes: Declarer rates to have 2=4=4=3 shape, and is a favorite to hold the K. If we have a chance to beat this, partner should have the K, and we can prevent declarer from collecting any long club with this switch and a continuation from partner.

Frans Buijsen: … Declarer has four diamonds. I am playing partner for the K or K.

Ciaran Coyne: Can’t beat this unless partner has a major-suit king. If it’s the K, we score one spade, three diamonds and a club; if it’s the K, we should score one (or more) hearts, three diamonds and a club.

Alvin Bluthman: Since South lacks a black-suit fit, he probably has four diamonds, leaving partner with K-2 doubleton. You have seen 12 defensive points; if you assume declarer has the rest, including the K and the K, he now has nine tricks, and a 10th if you set up declarer’s fourth diamond. So you must assume that partner has another king. If partner has the K, your low-heart shift will eventually give you the Q, Q and J.

## Problem 3

 Matchpoints A Q 3 West North East South N-S vul A 3 2 You Dummy Partner Declarer K 5 3 1 Pass 1 10 8 4 3 Pass 1 NT Pass 3 10 6 2 Pass 3 Pass 4 9 7 Pass Pass Pass A 9 6 A K 7 6 5 4 South

 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th 1. W K 3 2 Q

2102311
568039
95178
634120
A2178
A12613

Partner’s play of the 2 and the fall of the queen make it clear that clubs cannot be 2-2. Further, if partner had the singleton, it would mean that he passed over 1 with 2=4=6=1 shape — even with J-10-8-x-x-x and no other high cards, I’d bid at least 2 (maybe 3 ) at favorable vulnerability. Therefore, declarer has a singleton Q.

Shifting to diamonds is too risky. Declarer is likely to have the queen, and this blows a trick for no reason when partner has J-10-x-x. The only hope to gain is if declarer is 5-5 with J-x; but even then, an expert declarer would ask himself why you are being so generous — conclusion: put up the K as he would have done on his own.

Leading hearts is also poor. Declarer is known to have at least four, and this could lose a trick outright or remove a potential guess. Let declarer play his own side suits!

A low club continuation looks safe but, as a number of respondents wisely observed, it contains a subtle trap. Consider this typical layout:

 Matchpoints A Q 3 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th N-S vul A 3 2 1. W K 3 2 Q K 5 3 2. W 5? 4 9 7 10 8 4 3 3. S 4 6 K 2 10 6 2 5 4 4. N 8 J 8 6 9 7 J 10 5 4 5. S 6 7 A 4 A 9 6 J 10 7 2 6. N 10 7 9 7 A K 7 6 5 J 9 2 7. S J 2 3 4 K J 9 8 7 8. S K 6 A 5 K Q 8 6 9. N Q 10 Q 10 Q 8 4 Declarer succeeds 4 South Q

If West leads a second club, declarer can complete a dummy reversal: Club ruff; diamond to king; club ruff; heart to ace; club ruff, and draw trumps — making 4 . Without your help, declarer lacks the entries to do this.

The proper lead at Trick 2 is a trump. Even if declarer knew where all the cards were, I don’t see a way to succeed after this defense.

John Reardon: I hope declarer has similar to: K-J-9-x-x K-Q-8-x Q-x-x Q, so I must switch to a spade. If I continue clubs, South will manage a dummy reversal while any other lead may give away a trick. I would make the same play at IMPs.

Manuel Paulo: South should be 5=4=3=1. I must avoid to lead: hearts, when South has K-Q-8-x; diamonds, when South has the Q; clubs, which allows a successful dummy reversal with poor hands like K-x-x-x-x K-J-x-x x-x-x Q.

Francois Dellacherie: To prevent reverse-dummy lines if declarer has the likely K-J-x-x-x K-Q-x-x Q-x-x Q. The diamond tricks cannot disappear.

Gareth Birdsall: A club could aid a dummy reversal. …

Radu Mihai: Prevent a dummy reversal play.

Sivakumar Salem: Any shift looks dangerous: A club allows declarer to play a dummy reversal; a heart may give him a free finesse; a diamond may give him two diamond tricks. So only logical shift is trumps.

Per-Ola Cullin: The only surefire way to prevent a dummy reversal.

Bill Jacobs: Difficult, but I’ll go with a generic solution. If declarer is in trouble, he probably has to ruff clubs in hand (dummy reversal) or hearts in dummy. A trump switch is therefore indicated.

Barry Rigal: Trying to stop a dummy reversal.

Charles Blair: I don’t want to be an accessory (or is it an accomplice?) to a dummy reversal if declarer has K-J-x-x-x K-Q-J-x Q-x-x Q.

Rick Kelly: Time to go passive; let declarer with 5=4=3=1 shape work out diamonds.

Daniel Korbel: It surely seems like declarer is 5=5=2=1 or 5=4=3=1. Give him K-x-x-x-x K-Q-x-x-x Q-x Q, and the hand cannot be beaten; however, give him K-x-x-x-x K-Q-x-x Q-x-x Q, and declarer will reverse the dummy. Switch to a trump.

## Problem 4

 IMPs K Q 5 4 West North East South None vul 7 6 4 Partner Dummy You Declarer Q J 8 Pass 1 2 Q J 4 Dbl1 2 NT 3 3 J 10 9 7 3 Pass Pass Pass Lead: 8 A K 7 6 1. negative (both minors) 3 South K 10 8 2

 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th 1. W 8 4 3 A 2. S Q 2 4 K

7105225
K84020
262211
756833
J3157
A173

Could partner have a singleton spade? Yes, but it’s improbable. If partner had 1=2=5=5 shape, he would have competed to 4 , which would be cold. I suppose 1=2=6=4 is possible, but a long shot. Most likely, partner is 2=2=5=4, in which case a spade return would cost a trick in many layouts. For example:

 IMPs K Q 5 4 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th None vul 7 6 4 1. W 8 4 3 A Q J 8 2. S Q 2 4 K Q J 4 3. E 7? 2 6 K 8 6 J 10 9 7 3 4. N 6 A 8 3 3 2 A K 5. E 7 A 2 8 K 10 9 5 2 7 6 6. S 5 5 7 2 A 9 7 5 K 10 8 2 7. N Q 9 3 5 A 2 8. N Q 6 3 K Q J 10 9 8 5 Declarer succeeds A 4 3 3 South 6 3

Declarer would win the spade and lead a second heart, placing you in an insoluble predicament. If you next cash your clubs, you establish a club winner, allowing declarer to get rid of both diamonds. If you instead shift to a diamond, declarer would hop with the ace and get rid of a club on the high spade. Note that dummy has an entry in trumps.

It is imperative to shift to diamonds. Could it be right to lead the K first in case partner has: x x-x K-x-x-x-x-x A-x-x-x? Not really. No other defense would do better than the immediate diamond shift; and if declarer finesses the diamond, partner will cash the A to learn what to do next. Also, leading the K could cost severely if partner held: x x-x A-K-x-x-x-x x-x-x-x (yes, I think the spade opening lead is clear-cut despite A-K). Note that opposite this hand you will set 3 by ruffing the third diamond and giving partner his spade ruff.

John Reardon: One likely hand for declarer is: A-x Q-J-10-9-x-x A-x-x x-x, and here I must not return a spade or South will win and play a second heart. Then we will face a dilemma: If we cash our clubs, South will be able to discard both the diamond losers (note that North will have a late entry in hearts) but if we don’t cash them, one of the club losers will go away. … It is tempting to play the K and look learned, but what can partner tell you? He must have a good idea about your hand already and will know exactly what to do next if you switch to 7. It is also possible declarer has: A-x Q-10-9-8-x-x x-x-x A-x, where we can… make our trumps separately.

Manuel Paulo: I assume partner has another trump, the K and the A. Is the 8 a singleton or not? I don’t know if the carding ( 2) is significant. As a doubleton spade is more likely, I lead a diamond.

Tonci Tomic: Partner cannot have only the A for his negative double. He would probably have led a diamond with A-K, so he probably has the A and the K (or A). A spade return is out of the question because you would lose a trick when declarer has 2=6=3=2 distribution. The  7 is necessary to establish partner’s K before it is too late.

Bill Powell: May need to set up the K while partner has a second trump to stop a club discard.

Josh Sinnett: If declarer had A-x-x, he’d have won the first one in dummy to lead a heart through. Therefore, there’s no spade ruff available. To set the contract, partner needs the A and K. We must set up the diamond first before cashing clubs in case this sets up a diamond pitch.

Steve White: … This defense is likely to succeed if partner’s clubs are ace-fourth. He should not try to give you a diamond ruff without cashing the A, and your 10 will give him no doubt about how to continue.

Arvind Ranasaria: To beat this, partner must have the K and A. …

Olivier La Spada: In order to defeat this, partner should have 8-x x-x K-x-x-x-x A-x-x-x (this gives declarer 11 HCP). …

Raul Martino: We have to try to make a diamond before declarer discards a diamond or a club on a spade in dummy. This could be South’s hand: A-x Q-J-10-9-x-x A-x-(x) x-x-(x).

Sandy Barnes: Hoping for two hearts, a diamond, and two clubs. … On a lucky day declarer will be 2=6=3=2.

Jim Ma: South has A-x Q-J-x-x-x-x A-x-x x-x.

Alvin Bluthman: I have this fantasy in my head that partner started with J-x and A-K-x-x. He gives me the ruff and [we make our trumps separately].

## Problem 5

 Matchpoints 10 4 3 West North East South Both vul 3 Partner Dummy You Declarer A Q J 8 7 5 4 1 K 4 Pass 2 Pass 2 8 5 Pass 2 Pass 4 Lead: J Q 8 4 2 Pass Pass Pass K 10 3 4 South Q 8 7 6

 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th 1. W J 4 8 A 2. S 9 2 Q K

2103115
Q82211
374120
668341
104136
52147

If partner’s 2 is a true card, and there is no reason to suspect otherwise, declarer seems to be 5=4=2=2. Apparently, partner is not anxious for a ruff, else he would have led his singleton. Perhaps you should give him the ruff anyway to kill declarer’s diamond entry. No; this would reduce partner to two trumps, after which declarer is likely to be in the driver’s seat. What about removing the club entry? Again, this is unlike to matter since declarer has a diamond entry.

You must use your one time on lead to do something damaging, and this calls for a heart shift. If you can set up a tap on dummy, declarer may be unable to manage. Consider this typical layout:

 Matchpoints 10 4 3 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th Both vul 3 1. W J 4 8 A A Q J 8 7 5 4 2. S 9 2 Q K K 4 3. E 2! A 6 3 A J 6 8 5 4. S K A 3 5 K 9 7 6 Q 8 4 2 5. W K! 10 4 5 2 K 10 3 6. N 4 8 9 J J 10 9 3 2 Q 8 7 6 7. W 2 K 6 5 K Q 9 7 2 8. N A 3 6 6 A J 10 5 9. W 10 4 Q 2 9 6 Declarer fails (down 2) 4 South A 5

If you return the 2, declarer must win the ace. Now what can he do? If he leads the K, partner wins the ace and returns the K, forcing dummy to ruff. It all collapses now. The best declarer can do is go down one, though he is likely to go down two trying to make it (as shown above).

Note that it was crucial to lead a low heart, not the queen. It is possible to give South a hand where the Q is necessary, e.g., A-K-J-x-x K-x-x-x 9-x A-x, but this requires partner to have good heart spots in addition to the right honor cards.

John Reardon: If declarer has similar to: A-K-Q-J-x K-J-x-x 9 A-x-x, I must first ensure we do not lose our A. Then if partner has a spade honor, he can return a club and things will improve for the defense. Indeed, if partner has the Q and declarer misguesses to play the K we will defeat this contract. … I would also defend this way at IMPs.

Manuel Paulo: Partner should have at least A-J-x and K-x-x-x.

Gareth Birdsall: Punching dummy seems best.

Bill Powell: Things look bad unless partner has at least K-J-x and K. A spade lead helps declarer; a club looks less productive than a diamond. … Perhaps forcing the board is best.

Lydia Stern: I couldn’t solve this problem myself. But my Mom said if you really want a man’s heart, you should put yours on the table. Oh, boy. Do I want his fourth heart!

I have no idea what she’s talking about… Do you suppose she ran out of ice cream?

Neil Morgenstern: It’s matchpoints; let’s make sure we make our heart trick.

Ufuk Cotuk: There is one thing sure: not to give a diamond ruff to partner. I expect partner to have two trump tricks. We must make South lose trump control, so I attack dummy with hearts.

Grant Peacock: Play declarer for K-Q-9-x-x A-x-x-x-x x-x A.

Steve Whitman: A diamond ruff is the end of the defense. With a heart shift partner can win and remove the club entry. If declarer wins the heart, partner can force dummy to ruff a heart when in with a trump winner to create a melee and avoid the diamonds running.

## Problem 6

 Matchpoints K 8 4 West North East South E-W vul 3 2 Partner Dummy You Declarer A K 9 7 1 NT K Q 10 8 Pass 2 1 Pass 3 J 9 7 Pass 4 NT Pass 6 NT Lead: J 6 4 Pass Pass Pass J 10 8 2 6 NT South A 6 5 4 1. artificial (both minors)

 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th 1. W J 2 4 K 2. S 7 3 K 6 3. N Q 4 J 2 4. N 8 A 9 2

5104824
677436
1062412
J52412
943216
7221

Squeeze defense is the issue here. Declarer is known to have the A, A-K-Q and J-9-7 (14 points) which leaves room for the Q or Q, but not both. If declarer has the Q, there is no danger as long as partner protects hearts and you protect diamonds. The critical case is when South has Q-x-x-x. This gives declarer a threat behind its stopper (necessary for any squeeze) and you and partner will be double squeezed if you’re not careful. Consider this layout:

 Matchpoints K 8 4 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th E-W vul 3 2 1. W J 2 4 K A K 9 7 2. S 7 3 K 6 K Q 10 8 3. N Q 4 J 2 Q 6 5 3 2 J 9 7 4. N 8 A 9 2 J 10 9 7 5 6 4 5. E 6? A 5 3 6 J 10 8 2 6. S Q 7 7 5 3 2 A 6 5 4 7. S 3 6 A 2 A 10 8. N K 8 4 9 A K Q 8 9. N 10 7 5 3 Q 5 4 3 10. N 9 10 Q ? 6 NT South J 9 7 West is squeezed

If you innocently return a heart, declarer will cash his top hearts and pitch a diamond from dummy as you pitch your club. Declarer next wins the A-K (discovering the 4-1 split) and leads the 10. You must part with your spade stopper, so South pitches his diamond threat. Then the Q will squeeze West in the majors. Would a spade shift prevent this? No, declarer just wins the A and does the same.

There’s only one winning defense — a club return — after which there is no possible squeeze on any layout. In my example this has the effect of squeezing declarer before he can squeeze you. Note that South must part with one of his threats or lose communication in spades, after which the defense can counter anything.

It is also noteworthy to commend East’s holdup play in clubs. I know there are a lot of lazy defenders out there (not in this group of course) who would have won the A sooner, giving declarer an easy ride.

John Reardon: At first I thought there was no real danger because West guards the heart threat and East guards the diamond threat. … However, my partner’s spade discard is revealing and suggests that I should guard against declarer holding: A-10 A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-7. If I play a heart or a diamond, South [has a double squeeze]. If I play a spade, South can isolate the spade menace to East and squeeze me in spades and diamonds. Therefore, I must break up the impending double squeeze by returning my club, forcing South to make a premature discard.

Francois Dellacherie: Partner has the Q or Q. If it’s the Q, the play is irrelevant. If it’s the Q, returning a spade is highly dangerous. And also, declarer has a double-squeeze possibility: If he has A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-x, only a club return breaks the squeeze …

Gareth Birdsall: Any spade is wrong since that gives declarer the option to squeeze us or partner (depending on which we play, assuming declarer has A-10-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x J-x-x). A club is best since it breaks up the double squeeze if declarer has A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-x-x.

Bill Powell: Just wait for our trick, but spoil the double squeeze when declarer has A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-7.

Jonathan Weinstein: Has declarer concealed a four-card diamond suit? I suppose this is plausible, and it seems to be the only case where my play matters. A club upsets the double squeeze by squeezing his hand before either of ours. If declarer has only Q-x-x, no squeeze is possible because the heart and diamond threats are positioned wrong.

Radu Mihai: Partner has a queen. The only distribution for declarer consistent with the bidding, the lead and the discard, and allowing my lead to make a difference is: A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-x. In this case I have to play a club to break the double squeeze.

Tonci Tomic: If declarer has five hearts, and partner has one of the missing queens, the contract can be made only on a spade return if declarer has A-10-6. If declarer has 2=4=4=3 distribution (partner having the Q), a heart or diamond return allows the slam to make on a double squeeze with the 5 squeeze card. So, remove squeeze card prematurely.

Bill Powell: Just wait for our trick, but spoil the double squeeze when declarer has A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-7.

Jonathan Weinstein: Has declarer concealed a four-card diamond suit? I suppose this is plausible, and it seems to be the only case where my play matters. A club upsets the double squeeze by squeezing his hand before either of ours. …

Lydia Stern: The best way to defeat 6 NT is to squeeze declarer before he squeezes you.

Wow, I’m impressed… All of a sudden she’s lucid again.

Sivakumar Salem: … 6 NT can make if the proper defense is not found; so as squeeze defense, play the fourth club.

Josh Sinnett: Force declarer to choose his discard immediately. May prevent a double squeeze (heart/spade West, diamond/spade East).

Neelotpal Sahai: How else will you break the squeeze? For the contract to be broken, declarer should have 11 tricks and the 12th will come from either a simple squeeze in spades and diamonds or some type of double squeeze. The only contender for squeeze card is the 10. Force declarer to win it now and make a fatal discard from hand.

Steve White: It’s unlikely on the bidding and play so far, but destroy the double squeeze in the event declarer is 2=4=4=3. No other lead can be mandatory for the defense. Any spade could be fatal by eventually leading to a spade-diamond squeeze on you if declarer’s spades are A106. …

Gyula Argay: If South’s cards are A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-7 only the 5 lead defeats the contract.

Charles Blair: … Squeeze declarer before he squeezes us. If I lead any spade, declarer can arrange that I am the only one guarding the suit.

Alan Kravetz: Forces South to pitch before partner.

Onno Eskes: To break the double squeeze if declarer has 2=4=4=3. In that case the 5 squeezes declarer out of a threat or communication.

Franco Baseggio: Partner started with four or more spades and a queen or declarer is cold. Even then, declarer has 11 tricks and may have a double squeeze. The only relevant position is when declarer has A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-x. For the squeeze to work, South needs to cash the heart winners to strip me of idle cards before squeezing me with K. I can squeeze South first by playing a club.

Grant Peacock: South has A-x A-K-Q-x Q-x-x-x J-9-x. Declarer is trying to squeeze me, but I can fight back by squeezing him first.

## Final Notes

My usual policy in play contests is only to include comments supporting the best play, not only to ensure solid content but to avoid potential embarrassment in publishing comments that are off base. This time, however, deciding the best play in Problems 1 and 2 was so close that I included some runner-up views as well.

Use of a comment does not necessarily mean I agree with it, but generally they are all worthy. Comments are quoted exactly except for corrections in spelling and grammar. Where I have included only part of a comment, an ellipsis (…) indicates where text was cut. Text in [brackets] was supplied by me to summarize a cut portion or fix an omission. Comments are listed in order of respondents’ rank, which is my only basis for sequencing. I am confident that my lengthy study of these problems, assisted by comments received, has determined the best solutions in theory, but oversights are possible. Feedback is always welcome.

Thanks to all those who responded. I will leave you with the immortal words of:

Bill Powell: Good quiz — wonder what I would actually do at the table!

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