Analyses 7V88  MainChallenge

The Clubhouse Collection

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

“We lost the club suit in the 1950s. Now diamonds are gone
and hearts are sinking fast.” -Edgar Kaplan

These six problems were published on the Internet in June 2002 as a contest open to all bridge players. As declarer on each problem, all you had to do was choose your line of play from the choices offered.

Problem 123456Final Notes

Tonci Tomic Wins!

This contest had 566 participants from 97 locations, and the average score was 37.55. Congratulations to Tonci Tomic (Croatia), who was the first of two with perfect scores. Tomic represented his country in the 2001 European Championships (maybe others too) so his high score is not surprising. Also scoring 60 was Peter Nixon (Vancouver, British Columbia), a first-time participant in these contests. Well done! Three familiar names were close behind with 59: Gareth Birdsall (Cambridge, England); John Reardon (London, England); and Rob Stevens (Santa Cruz, California).

Aided by fine scores this month, Rob Stevens is now the new overall leader with an average of 58.25, and John Reardon is second with 57.25. Curiously, despite living on different continents today, these two guys went to college together — hmm, I wonder what they studied most.

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

Each problem offered six plausible lines of play. The merit of each is scored on a 1-to-10 scale based on my judgment, which is also aided by some of the comments I receive. These problems were some of the toughest to date, which maybe goes to show why people have been avoiding club contracts all these years.

Problem 1

MatchpointsS Q 6 3 2WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH K Q 8 5 2LHOPartnerRHOYou
D A 51 NT3 C1
C 10 2PassPassPass
Lead: D 3 1. You couldn’t bid 2 C (some silly convention)
S A J 4
H J 4
D J 2
3 C SouthC A Q J 9 7 4

D. Win first diamond, lead C 101019635
A. Win first diamond, lead S 2 to jack89817
E. Win second diamond, lead S 2 to jack7478
F. Win second diamond, lead C 1058315
B. Win first diamond, lead H 2 to jack27714
C. Win first diamond, lead D 516511

Making 3 C is easy, but it’s matchpoints where every trick counts. While you would like to be in game (3 NT, 4 H and 5 C are probably unbeatable), you can’t change the bidding. It doesn’t even help to consider distributions where game will fail, because you will surely go plus in 3 C with any play. All you can do now is try to win 11 tricks and beat others in a club partscore.

While the consensus was on the money, I’m sure an even higher percentage of players would get this one right at the table, because the correct play is also the instinctive play. When posed as a problem, the tendency is to look for a more sophisticated or devious play. Win the opening lead and draw trumps? No way could that be right, so there must be a triple ruffout squeeze. Sorry, but simple is sometimes best. The 1 NT bid (15-17) marks East with all the missing high cards, and West’s fourth-best lead suggests East has five diamonds. Therefore, consider this layout:

MatchpointsS Q 6 3 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None vulH K Q 8 5 21. WD 3A!92
D A 52. NC 10!643
C 10 23. NC 28Q5
S 9 7 5 TableS K 10 84. SC AD 6S 2K
H 10 7 6 3H A 95. SC JH 7H 2D 4
D 10 7 6 3D K Q 9 8 46. SC 9S 5H 5D Q
C 5 3C K 8 6continued below…
S A J 4
H J 4
D J 2
3 C SouthC A Q J 9 7 4

After winning the D A and running the C 10, you will lead all but one trump to reach this position:

C win 5 S Q 6 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H K Q 87. SD J!75K
D 58. EH 943Q
C9. NS 38J7
S 9 7 TableS K 10 810. SC 7!H 6H 8D 8
H 10 6 3H A 911. SH J10KA
D 10 7D K 8East is endplayed
S A J 4
H J 4
South leadsC 7

Note that East chose to pitch two diamonds and jettisoned the queen* to keep a potential entry to West. Next lead the D J to East, then: (1) If East returns a diamond, ruff and lead the H J and (if ducked) continue with a heart for the final endplay, or (2) if East returns a low heart (best), win in dummy; finesse the S J, then lead your last trump for the strip squeeze.

*This is the proper discarding, as it allows East to stop an 11th trick if West has the D J regardless of your play — West would win the diamond exit and lead a heart; then if you play the H 8, East plays the nine; or if you play the H Q, East wins the ace and returns a heart. Also note that in the actual ending you must still guess East’s major-suit distribution if he follows Option 2 above.

All other lines can be held to 10 tricks in my example. I figure Lines A and E to be next best and essentially equal, but you will need to find East with a doubleton S K or C K (and guess which to play for). Line A gets the edge, as there’s a slight extra chance (when you lead hearts next) that East may underlead in diamonds trying to reach his partner.

Line F has an even lesser chance. It may look similar to Line D, but East can stop an 11th trick whenever he has three spades. Retaining the D J as a preliminary exit card is crucial for the successful endplay.

Lines B and C are the worst, as they fail to take advantage of the immediate entry to dummy. In fact, I don’t believe you can win 11 tricks against any layout with proper defense.

Comments for D. Win first diamond, lead C 10

Tonci Tomic: Cash five clubs discarding two hearts and a spade from table. In the seven-card ending, East will be forced to keep three spades. If he chooses to keep two diamonds, lead the D J. On the diamond return, ruff and lead the H J…

Peter Nixon: Yes, it looks like we missed game, but that is ancient history. Now I must win the most tricks possible. East is marked with all the outstanding points and D K-Q-x-x-x. Lead the C 10, then play all the clubs but one to remove East’s breathing room; then throw him in with the D J. If East opened an offbeat 2=2=5=4, take my 10 tricks like a man, and congratulate partner on his wonderfully insightful pass.

Gareth Birdsall: East’s last seven cards will have to be S K-x-x H A-x D K-Q. I throw him in with the D J, and [if] he exits with his other diamond, I can [ruff and lead the H J].

John Reardon: West has found a good lead, and so compared to others in clubs, I am in trouble. I can’t afford to worry about missing 3 NT but should try to make 11 tricks. After five rounds of clubs, I will almost certainly know East’s exact distribution… If East keeps S K-x-x H A-x D K-x, I will exit with the D J… If East keeps S K-x H A-x D K-x-x, I will lead low to the H Q then [sooner or later] take the spade finesse for three spade tricks.

Rob Stevens: West has found the best lead, but in so doing has revealed that East has five diamonds. Armed with this knowledge I can simply play five rounds of clubs and keep track of East’s diamonds. If East keeps two diamonds, exit with a diamond… If East keeps three diamonds, I must decide whether he has come down to a singleton H A or a doubleton S K — this will be easy if East has two clubs (3=3=5=2), but may be a guess [otherwise].

Neelotpal Sahai: All the high cards are marked with East. If East has C K-x-x-x, then 10 tricks is the limit. Otherwise I can work for 11 tricks [by leading all but one club].

Charles Blair: [When] East has S K-x-x H A-x D K-Q, lead the D J to East. If East exits with a low heart, North wins, followed by a spade finesse and a trump…

Walter Lee: The best line both single- and double-dummy. Single-dummy, it picks up 70 percent of all 5-3-3-2 hands: 3=3=5=2 and my choice of either 3=2=5=3 or 2=3=5=3. Double-dummy, it picks up everything.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: From the lead and auction East seems to have five diamonds and all the remaining points. If he has two clubs only, that will be the easy case; I will play him for 3=3=5=2; [Endplay described]. If he started with three clubs, I still can get 11 tricks (my objective), but I will have to guess if he started with two or three spades, assuming he [discards a heart].

Dale Freeman: After five clubs, East will be down to seven cards, and I should be able to guess his distribution and make 11 tricks. I probably will misguess if East is 4=2=5=2 and pitches one diamond, one heart and one spade.

Branko Vlajnic: This can win 11 tricks in all cases unless East has four trumps, then only nine [or 10] tricks. The only safety solution for 10 tricks… is to lead the C 2.*

*Good observation, though the need for it is inconsistent with West’s fourth-best lead. Nonetheless, if East could have S K-x-x H A-x D K-Q-x-x C K-x-x-x, after winning the first or second diamond, you must lead the C 2 to win 10 tricks. -RP

Herbert Wilton: Opener has all the points. How can he defend when I take the first five clubs?

Frances Hinden: I think this is the best line for 11 tricks as long as I read the end position correctly. I’m not competing with people in game, and life’s too short to work out what is happening to other partscores.

Radu Mihai: Try to make 11 tricks. [After] five club tricks, [if] East keeps [only] two diamonds… lead the D J; on a low heart return (best) win in dummy, take the spade finesse and cash the last trump discarding a heart; East has no answer [though I may have to guess his distribution].

Rainer Herrmann: Amazing how often it is best simply to run your long suit. If East is 5-3-3-2, I do not see how East can come to more than two tricks.

Franco Baseggio: Run five trumps. East must hold three spades (else I force a heart entry), two hearts (else H J sets up an entry and a discard), thus only one or two diamonds. Now exit with D J and East will have to give me an 11th trick one way or another. In fact, any time East comes down to at most two diamonds, the D J will be an effective exit.

Craig Biddle: It seems wrong to lead a spade, since that only gains with K-x on my right, and that makes my contract worse. Hearts and diamonds seem wrong also, as they can be led with equal effect from hand (unless East is a scaredy-cat who might hop ace at trick two). It also seems wrong to duck a diamond since it might be nice to force East on lead [later]. That leaves clubs. …

Leonard Helfgott: I would prefer to keep the low diamond for an exit, and I can always create an entry in hearts [if necessary] for the spade finesse. …

Frans Buijsen: After this, I will run five club tricks and then throw East in with a diamond. It will take some card reading, but I have very good chances of 11 tricks this way.

Douglas Dunn: I aim to make 11 tricks by running five clubs, keeping an eye on East’s discards. …

Problem 2

MatchpointsS A J 7 6 2WestNorthEastSouth
Both vulH A 10 5 2LHOPartnerRHOYou
D J 7 4 23 C
Lead: C JEast plays C 2 
S 3
H J 4 3
D Q 5
3 C SouthC K Q 9 8 7 5 4

You pitch a spade from dummy and win the king.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
E. Lead the D Q10468
F. Lead the C Q916529
A. Win S A, ruff spade, lead C Q812622
B. Win S A, lead D 267012
D. Lead the H J37113
C. Lead H 3 and finesse the 1028816

A trump lead against a preempt is unusual, and generally a poor strategy, so a number of inferences can be drawn. It is obvious that West cannot have two honors together in any side suit (S K-Q, H K-Q or D A-K) else he would have led it. Further, West probably would prefer to lead a weak side suit instead of a trump. Therefore, West chose a safe trump to avoid leading blindly from his honor in each side suit. This certainly stands up to scrutiny, as any red-suit lead would have helped you.

When it comes to playing trumps again, it is clearly right to lead the queen, as the only chance to avoid two trump losers is to find West with J-10 doubleton. Actually, this seems rather likely since a trump lead is even less desirable from a singleton jack, J-x or J-10-x. Let’s look at a typical layout:

MatchpointsS A J 7 6 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both vulH A 10 5 21. WC JS 22K
D J 7 4 22. SC Q?10H 2A
C3. ES 5!3KA
S K 9 8 4 TableS Q 10 54. NS 610C 74
H K 9 7H Q 8 65. SC 9D 3D 23
D A 9 8 3D K 10 66. SC 8S 8S 76
C J 10C A 6 3 2continued below…
S 3
H J 4 3
D Q 5
3 C SouthC K Q 9 8 7 5 4

After the C J lead (pitching a spade) to the king, suppose you lead the C Q immediately, smashing the 10 and pitching a heart from dummy, to the ace. If East is on the ball, he will return a low spade to the king and ace (ducking the S K doesn’t help if West shifts to a heart); then you will ruff a spade and draw trumps to reach this ending:

C win 4 S JTrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A 10 57. SC 5S 9S JS Q
D J 7 48. SC 4D 8H 5H 6
CDeclarer fails
S 9 TableS Q
H K 9 7H Q 8 6
D A 9 8D K 10 6
H J 4 3
D Q 5
South leadsC 5 4

This may look promising, but it’s a dead end. The defenders’ communication in diamonds allows them to foil any attempt. If you lead another trump, West pitches a spade; then if you let go dummy’s last spade, so does East. The only red card you can win is the H A.

The key to reaching a successful ending is to reduce the enemy communication in diamonds. Suppose you lead the D Q at trick two, won by West to prevent direct establishment, and he shifts to a low spade. (West cannot return a diamond because dummy then has enough entries to establish the D J.) Win the S A, ruff a spade, and lead the C Q. Assume East ducks, then wins the next club to leave:

C win 5 S J 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A 10 57. EC 68D 8S 7
D J 78. SC 7S 9D 7!S Q
C9. SD 5!9JK
S K 9 TableS Q10. ED 10C 5H 7S J
H K 9 7H Q 8 611. SH 3910Q
D 9 8D K 10Declarer succeeds
CC 6
H J 4 3
D 5
East leadsC 8 7 5

East exits with a club (best) to retain his S Q, but with West now entryless, you’re in business. Lead the C 7, West pitches a spade, and you pitch a diamond from dummy. What can East do? Obviously, he can’t pitch a heart. If he pitches the D 10, lead the heart jack; king, ace; ruff the spade, and exit with a diamond to endplay East. If East instead pitches the S Q, exit with a diamond. When you ruff the forced diamond return, West is squeezed down to a doubleton heart, so pitch the S J from dummy and lead a heart to the 10. Neat.

On a double-dummy basis, Line E is slightly inferior to Lines A and F. This is mainly because, when East has a doubleton heart, West can duck the diamond and allow East to win and shift to his top heart to get a ruff (while you could succeed by leading trumps). Nonetheless, West could not know the layout, so the odds are overwhelming he would make the normal technical play of winning his diamond honor, after which you can succeed. Another case arises when West has exactly three diamonds, with which he can defeat Line E by winning his honor and returning a diamond. Again, this seems implausible from most holdings, as it may cost a trick or a tempo. Therefore, Line E will surely work best in practice.

Lines A and F are about equal for second place. I gave the edge to Line F because it keeps the spade layout hidden and saves an entry to dummy, which provides more chances for East to err when he wins the C A.

Line B is less effective because it removes a dummy entry and telegraphs your spade and diamond holdings (e.g., you wouldn’t play this way with D Q-10). Hence, it is easy for West to win and return a diamond, which breaks up the endplay.

Lines C and D are poor. Leading hearts early makes it easy for the defense to get two heart tricks, either naturally or with a ruff. Line C seems worst of all because, if anyone has a doubleton heart, it is probably East, and this plays right into his parlor.

An interesting point about my example deal is that East could have won the C A at trick one and shifted to a low spade, which allows the defense to defeat the endplay. Is this realistic? I don’t think so. I’m sure if I did it, I’d discover that partner had C Q-J doubleton (a common deceptive lead) and have to explain how we made only one trump trick.

Comments for E. Lead the D Q

Tonci Tomic: Opponents are probably balanced with split honors in [all suits]. Suppose West has C J-10 doubleton and hearts are 3-3. I must force opponents either to discard or open hearts themselves… When I exit with the D Q, West must take it, and he cannot return a diamond from A-x-x-x or K-x-x-x because I have enough entries to promote the D J. On a spade return [complete endplay described].

Peter Nixon: … Even in these days of liberal preempts, this is one of the ugliest vulnerable 3 C bids I have ever seen. South (note South, not me) deserves to go down two tricks, and on most holdings he will get his just deserts. Assuming that South has left the table from embarrassment and the director has recruited me to finish the hand…It seems Line E makes the most tricks if West has four diamonds (assuming split honors), as I [may] set up the fourth diamond, or force them to lead hearts, [or develop an endplay].

N. Scott Cardell: … Eliminating spades is a nice idea, but chances are I won’t be able to do so effectively. So, I keep most of my legitimate chances alive, and give the opponents a chance to misguess, without revealing the spade position. … With the diamond honors split, West will probably win… If all else fails, I get the best count that I can and try to play hearts for one loser.

Neelotpal Sahai: Breaking hearts cannot be beneficial, and the S A entry to dummy may prove useful… Leading the D Q seems to be better, as the C Q gives the tempo to the defense.

Walter Lee: If West didn’t know what to lead, he probably still doesn’t know what to lead. I can hear him squirm with S K-9-x H K-9-x D A-x-x-x C J-10-x.

Craig Satersmoen: Trying to get the opponents to shift to hearts for me by making it look like I’m setting up a diamond pitch.

Tim Hemphill: Punt and let the opponents open spades or hearts.

Comments for F. Lead the C Q

John Reardon: The lead may well be a singleton or J-10 doubleton; J-10-x is possible, although many experts would lead low from that holding in trumps. Playing a red suit now might well result in the defense arranging a damaging heart ruff. An advantage of returning a club before ruffing a spade is that my hand is relatively unknown and the defense will have to guess what to do next. …If the lead is a singleton, I am better placed to take advantage of a favorable heart position later if I don’t ruff a spade yet. Losing 100 may not be a bad score at matchpoints, but losing 200 will definitely be poor.

Rob Stevens: I am hoping for C J-10 doubleton, but should plan for J-10-x. It’s tempting to play the S A and ruff a spade, which will embarrass the opponents for an exit should spades break 5-2; however, 4-3 is more likely… It seems best to play a second club immediately; the defense won’t know my shape and will have to guess which side suit to play…

Charles Blair: Line A might gain if somebody has a doubleton spade honor, but I don’t want to reveal my holding. (I’m not sure I agree with the spade discard, but it makes Line A look worse).

Radu Mihai: Try to avoid a heart ruff that [probably] East can make, and keep all doors open.

Pratap Nair: I hope that the opponents are good for 2 NT, and I can restrict myself to one down.

Gerald Murphy: … Hoping for a doubleton C J-10 to eliminate one loser, and to find a heart position for another.

Jim Fox: I want to make the defense lead side suits first if at all possible.

Franco Baseggio: Best play in diamonds is low to the queen (picks up A-K with East) then duck a diamond (picks up A-x or K-x with East). Best play in hearts is to pick an opponent to play for a doubleton honor. Spades don’t offer nearly so much hope… There’s some danger of getting tapped out before you get to try everything, so I’ll start by knocking out the C A while they can’t hurt me.

Julian Wightwick: The opponents may not know to get out in spades.

Graham Osborne: Red-suit leads immediately are too committal until I know more about the hand. …

Mark Goddard: I want the opponents to lead the red suits.

Bill Jacobs: Three rounds of clubs pitching one of each suit from dummy. West now has a problem, which he can only solve with a spade. Why should he get it right?

Douglas Dunn: … I aim not to lose 200. Start pulling trumps, otherwise the defense could get a heart ruff. If they play spades, I lead to the D Q hoping for A-K with East. Later finesse the H 10 hoping for Q-x or K-x or both K-Q with West.

Rich Pavlicek: Pull trump!

Very eloquent, but could you expand a little? Maybe something creative like, “Pull trump, Dad.”

Richard Higgins: Give the opponents the opportunity to lead a heart or a diamond.

Tze Cheow Sng: Force the opponents to open the other three suits.

Problem 3

Both vulH 8 7 2LHOPartnerRHOYou
D A K Q J 9 81 H2 DPass2 S
C Q 10 8 2Pass3 DPass4 C
Table PassPassPass
Lead: H KEast plays H 4 
S A K 9 4 3 2
H Q 3
4 C SouthC K J 9 4 3

West continues H A-J (East follows). You ruff and lead a club to the eight; East pitches a diamond.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
D. Win D A, ruff a diamond1012622
B. Win D A-K, ruff a diamond79316
A. Win D A-K, lead C 2 to king68214
E. Lead C 2 to king515728
C. Win D A, lead C 2 to king4336
F. Ruff a diamond17513

Finally, a club contract you can be proud of! The spade-diamond misfit almost propelled you too high, but partner hit the brakes just in time. Even so, the 4-0 trump break spells trouble. You can’t succeed by just drawing trumps, as West will duck the second round; then if you lead a third trump, he will win and return a heart, stranding you in one hand and ensuring the setting trick with his remaining trump.

The basic question is this: How many diamonds do you need to cash before you can succeed on the power of your trumps? The answer is just one, after which you can crossruff successfully against any distribution. Consider this dangerous layout:

Both vulH 8 7 21. WH K243
D A K Q J 9 82. WH A76Q
C Q 10 8 23. WH J89C 3
S 8 7 5 TableS Q J 10 64. SC 458D 3
H A K J 10 5H 9 6 45. ND A4S 22
D 2D 10 7 6 5 4 36. ND 8!10C 9S 5
C A 7 6 5C7. SS A7D 96
S A K 9 4 3 28. SS K8D J10
H Q 39. SS 3H 5C 2J
Dcontinued below…
4 C SouthC K J 9 4 3

After ruffing the third heart and leading a club to the eight, cash the D A. Obviously, if you try to cash a second diamond, you are set; but you don’t need it. The next play is to ruff a diamond. If West overruffs, it’s easy, so assume he pitches a spade. Then win the S A-K (which must cash when West has one diamond) and ruff a spade to reach:

C win 3 STrickLead2nd3rd4th
H10. ND Q5C K?
D K QDeclarer succeeds
C Q 10
S TableS Q
H 10H
DD 7 6 5
C A 7 6C
S 9 4
North leadsC K J

Next ruff a diamond high. If West overruffs and returns a trump, you will win in dummy and draw the last trump. Otherwise, just continue the crossruff, and West can win only his ace.

Note that it does not suffice to lead trumps after cashing one diamond. West would duck, leaving you with no answer. You can’t lead a third trump; and if you now cash the S A-K and ruff a spade, you lack enough trumps to sustain the crossruff.

The recommended play works against any distribution except a diamond void, for which there is no solution.* If West is 2-2 in spades and diamonds, the play is essentially the same as above. If he has three diamonds and one spade, he would have to ruff the second spade to alter your course; but then you know that another diamond must cash. Similarly, if West ruffed the first spade, you know that two more diamonds must cash.

*Except in the rare event West has S 8-7-6-5, Line E works because South’s S 9 becomes good after one ruff. Thanks to Charles Blair for noting this.

Of the other options, Lines A, B, C and E are equivalent in theory, as each will succeed when West has at least two diamonds (and fail otherwise) assuming the proper follow-up. I gave the edge to Lines A and B because, once two diamonds live, there is little difficulty in the follow-up. With Lines C and E, however, after winning the C K (West will duck), it is necessary to make the delicate play of cashing only one spade before ruffing a spade — which I’m sure many would miss. As a final tiebreaker between A and B, and between C and E, I went by the voting.

The remaining Line F is definitely the worst, as I don’t believe it works against any distribution.

Comments for D. Win D A, ruff a diamond

Tonci Tomic: If West is void in diamonds, I cannot make it. Otherwise play D A; ruff a diamond (West can overruff if he wants); take the S A-K and crossruff.

Peter Nixon: That diamond discard looks ominous. West is 5-4 in the rounded suits; if he is void in diamonds, I can’t make the contract, so I have to hope the D A lives. After that, I can guard against West having a stiff diamond by trumping and leading spades from the top. Effectively, I make my C 2 en passant.

Gareth Birdsall: I need to cash three tricks to threaten to take 10 tricks on a crossruff if West refuses to overruff.

John Reardon: West has four unknown cards in spades and diamonds. I can’t succeed unless he has at least one diamond, and then I am safe if I cash just one top diamond before ruffing a low one high.

Rob Stevens: The contract is unmakable if West has 4=5=0=4 shape, but is cold otherwise. Once the D A lives, I can play on crossruff lines, with an alternate line of drawing trumps ending in dummy should West overruff a diamond with the C A.

N. Scott Cardell: This is 100 percent once the D A is not ruffed. After the D A, it never pays West to ruff or overruff… If West ruffs a high spade, I overruff and cash the number of diamonds that the count reveals will cash before continuing the crossruff.

Neelotpal Sahai: As long as West’s four pointed-suit cards are not all spades, the contract is cold. Cash just one diamond; ruff a diamond; cash two spades, and play third spade… If West ruffs or overruffs with C A at any stage, dummy becomes high.

Charles Blair: The only way to stop a crossruff is for West to overruff and return a trump, but then dummy is good. Line E works if East has S Q-J-10 and all seven diamonds, but this seems too much of a long shot.

Walter Lee: It would have been simpler to cash spades before drawing any rounds of trumps. Whether West ruffs or not I’ll know how many diamonds to cash before I crossruff.

Walter makes a good point. By leading three rounds of spades immediately, you may discover the one layout where you can succeed against a diamond void; i.e., the S Q-J-10 falls to reveal West started with S 8-7-6-5, then a trump lead reveals West’s entire hand. Be aware, however, that you must ruff the third spade low to succeed on my example deal. This is ostensibly safe on the bidding, but you would be snakebit if West chose to open 1 H with S 10-x-x-x-x H A-K-J-10-5 D x C A-x, not outlandish. -RP

Dale Freeman: West can never afford to overruff with the C A; [next cash] the S A-K then crossruff — an interesting end position.

Marcus Chiloarnus: Best chance of a revoke is to do this quickly.

Branko Vlajnic: Declarer is helpless if West has 4=5=0=4 pattern. In all other cases (3=5=1=4, 2=5=2=4, 1=5=3=4 or 0=5=4=4) the winning play is Line D.

Herbert Wilton: … As long as one diamond holds up, the contract is safe.

Len Vishnevsky: I want one heart ruff, one club, and five more clubs via a crossruff. This means I need three pointed-suit winners. If I play D A-K and West ruffs, I’m down. If I play D A, diamond ruff, S A-K and West ruffs, I overruff and cash a diamond.

Frances Hinden: This ensures 10 tricks as long as West has at least one diamond, which looks like the best chance.

Matej Accetto: As long as the D A wins, I’m home. If West overruffs… I win any return, cash the S A pitching a diamond from dummy, draw trumps and cash diamonds. If West cannot or does not overruff, I start by playing S A-K, then proceed to crossruff. Even if West has a void or singleton in spades, it doesn’t help to ruff…

Rainer Herrmann: If West is void in diamonds, the contract cannot be made. If West is not void in diamonds, Line D ensures the contract.

Jim Fox: It would help to know the spade situation early on before playing diamonds. If I can get three pointed tricks, I should be home on this, so I will next play S A-K and go from there.

Ron Landgraff: I think that if West has at least one diamond, I can make this.

Anil Upadhyay: Continuing clubs is no good, so the question is what is the least number of diamond winners that must be cashed before embarking on a crossruff. If I do not cash any (Line F)… the hand cannot be made… So, cash a diamond; ruff a diamond; S A-K; and ruff a spade… [When I] ruff a diamond, West is helpless; if he overruffs and returns a trump, dummy is good; [else I crossruff].

Mike Weber: I need only one diamond to go with two spades, a heart ruff (trick three), the C 8 (trick four), one high club, and four club tricks by ruffing. The danger is that West might ruff the second diamond. I can handle his overruffing, or if he follows, [so] start the spades.

George Klemic: If West is void in diamonds, there are not enough winners. Diamonds are most likely 6-1 (East would not discard from D 10-x-x-x-x since he can’t be sure there isn’t a problem).

Graham Osborne: Cold if the D A stands up.

Frans Buijsen: This only loses if East has all seven diamonds. All other lines suffer from communication problems if West defers taking the C A until he can sever my communication with another heart.

Carlos Dabezies: I will make five tricks on a crossruff (allowing for an overruff and trump return), so I want three more as early as possible. These are most likely to be the D A and S A-K.

Ufuk Cotuk: If I can cash one diamond, West has no defense at all. Ruff second diamond.

Carl Hudecek: If West is 3=5=1=4, after ruffing the second diamond and cashing S A-K… I can crossruff out. The timing is such that West cannot overruff and lead a trump, or dummy is high.

Thijs Veugen: I have three clubs left in dummy so I must discard at least one spade. If West ruffs the second spade, I am sure to cash another diamond.

James Sheppard: Crying isn’t an option? I’ve got three ruffs in dummy, so D A then ruff a diamond. I’m guessing because East chucked a diamond that he started with six to the 10…

Sven Pride: … I have two tricks in the bank, five can come from trump tricks, so I need three high-card tricks. … [Continuing with] S A; S K (if ruffed small, overruff and cash D K because West is 1=5=3=4); [otherwise] crossruff…

Problem 4

IMPsS A 9 7 5 4WestNorthEastSouth
E-W vulH Q J 10LHOPartnerRHOYou
D A 32 H2 NT3 H5 C
C A 9 3PassPassPass
Lead: H KEast plays H 2 
S 6
H 7
D 7 6 5 4
5 C SouthC K Q 10 8 7 6 5

At trick two West leads the C 2, East plays the C J, and you win the king.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
E. Win D A, lead D 31015127
A. Win S A, ruff spade, win D A86812
B. Win S A, ruff spade, duck a diamond711821
C. Win S A, ruff spade, win C A67714
F. Duck a diamond26011
D. Win S A, lead H Q to pitch diamond19216

West did well to shift to a trump, else it would be an easy matter to ruff two diamonds in dummy. If you pursue diamond ruffs, whoever has the remaining trump will strive to gain the lead (and partner will refrain) so a second trump will surely be led whenever possible. Fortunately, there’s another obvious chance: Dummy’s fifth spade can be established if the suit breaks 4-3.

Not so fast. There is a third chance in the form of a squeeze. It is obvious that West has the H A, so if East has the longer diamonds, the conditions are right for a double squeeze with spades as the common suit. The key to deciding between the squeeze and establishing spades lies in counting the enemy hands. West must have six hearts (a five-card weak two-bid on A-K-x-x-x vulnerable is irrational), so if spades are 4-3, it is impossible for West to hold four diamonds. Hence, the squeeze will work whenever spades will establish, and it might work when spades are 5-2. Consider this plausible layout:

IMPsS A 9 7 5 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W vulH Q J 101. WH K1027
D A 32. WC 23JK
C A 9 33. SD 4!QA!8
S 10 3 TableS K Q J 8 24. ND 3!259
H A K 8 6 4 3H 9 5 25. WC 49S 210!
D Q J 9D K 10 8 26. SD 6JC A10
C 4 2C J7. NH J5C 53
S 68. SC QH 4S 4S 8
H 79. SC 8H 6S 5H 9
D 7 6 5 410. SC 7H 8S 7S J
5 C SouthC K Q 10 8 7 6 5continued below…

If you try to establish spades, you will fail; but Line E works like a charm. Lead a diamond (West should play the queen) to the ace, and a diamond back to the nine. West must lead his last trump to stop two diamond ruffs, which you win in hand to ruff a diamond. Return to hand with a heart ruff and run your trumps. Before your last trump, the ending will be:

C win 3 S A 9TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H Q11. SC 6S 3H Q?
DEast is squeezed
S 10 3 TableS K Q
S 6
D 7
South leadsC 6

The last club effects a simultaneous double squeeze. West must let go a spade to keep the H A, then East is squeezed.

Of the remaining choices, Lines A, B and C are almost the same, succeeding whenever spades are 4-3. On closer scrutiny, Line B risks the D A being ruffed for no reason; and Line C kills your own ruffing power when diamonds might be blocked (or an opponent errs) so that a second trump cannot be led. Line A has neither of these flaws so it gets second place.

Line F is much inferior because it loses the chance to establish spades and ruins your entries for the squeeze. It does beat Line D, however, which has no chance. I’m sure those who chose Line D had their mind on something else, like watching Tiger Woods win the U.S. Open. On second thought, it does have one chance: West might forget to win the H A, thinking you ruffed.

It is curious to note that an original trump lead would defeat the contract, as it gives the defense an extra tempo. Besides leading trumps twice, West can also lead a spade to kill the squeeze before you can rectify the count. Food for thought.

Comments for E. Win D A, lead D 3

Tonci Tomic: I need east to have four diamonds. Either the opponents will allow me to ruff two diamond losers on the table, or they can return a club and wait for a double squeeze to happen. Notice that if spades are 4-3, then East must have at least four diamonds.

Peter Nixon: Looks to me that Line E works in all cases, unless Pavlicek led a trump originally from S Q-x H A-K-x-x-x-x D J-x-x C x-x, but then he is far too tough for me — then again, he probably is too tough for me anyway.

Yep, I once went 10 rounds with Lennox Lewis… Would you believe Jerry? OK, OK, it was Emmanuel.

Gareth Birdsall: Win the trump return in hand, ruff a diamond, ruff a heart and run trumps. [I need only] pay attention for a discard of the H A or the 13th diamond. I only lose if West has the fourth diamond, in which case I can’t make, as spades can’t be 4-3.

John Reardon: At first sight it looks right to set up a long spade for the 11th trick, however, by playing ace and another diamond the defense is forced to return a second trump. Win this in hand, ruff a diamond, ruff a heart and run the rest of the trumps for a double squeeze with spades the middle suit. I just need East to have four or more diamonds, and West to have the H A.

Rob Stevens: It looks as though I should play to set up a long spade… but if West has three spades, six hearts (very probable on the bidding) and one club, he cannot have more than three diamonds, which makes the diamonds a threat against East. Therefore, I should just play the D A and concede a diamond. The opponents will return a trump, then I will ruff the third diamond (isolating the menace), ruff a heart, and run the clubs for a double squeeze. This line offers an extra chance over [establishing spades] when West is 2=6=3=2.

N. Scott Cardell: If the opponents return a trump, I win in hand and ruff a diamond; ruff a heart, and play the double squeeze — going with the odds that East will have the long diamonds. On any other return I can crossruff for 11 tricks. If West has four diamonds, then spades aren’t splitting, so ruffing out the spades wouldn’t have worked; but if West is 2=6=3=2, then only the correct line works. Also, West is likely to have the doubleton club, because with J-4 East would probably duck smoothly…

Neelotpal Sahai: Marked double squeeze. If the defense leads a plain suit, two diamonds can be ruffed in dummy. If instead a club is returned, then ruff one diamond in dummy and play out trumps… Nobody can guard spades.

Charles Blair: The double squeeze works if spades are 4-3 or if West is 2=6=3=2.

Walter Lee: How is this for a threat: If you kill my ruffs, I’ll double squeeze you!

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Trying to set up the fifth spade is equivalent to assuming spades are 4-3. But if West has six hearts, one or two clubs, and three or four spades, he cannot have more than three diamonds. So I will go for the double squeeze, as it will also succeed when West is 2=6=3=2. I cannot see any way of making this game if West has four diamonds.

Dale Freeman: This forces a club return from an opponent (else ruff two diamonds), then ruff one diamond and a double squeeze works (unless West has four diamonds).

Marcus Chiloarnus: If the opponents don’t let me trump my diamonds now, it will be more painful for them in the end.

Branko Vlajnic: Lines A-C are good enough against a 4-3 spade break. Line E loses only if West has four diamonds, but then spades certainly are not 4-3. In all other cases I make the 11th trick by a double-squeeze ending.

Herbert Wilton: Now the defense must lead another trump to have a chance. Then if spades are 4-3 (so that I could have ruffed them out for a winner), East must control diamonds and I can play for the double squeeze just as well (also succeeding when East has 5=3=4=1 shape).

Len Vishnevsky: If I can ruff out the spades, there’s a double squeeze. … The opponents must return a trump to kill the crossruff, so C Q; diamond ruff; heart ruff; trumps. …

Frances Hinden: Playing for the double squeeze. This is better than ruffing out spades, because if West has four diamonds… then spades are not breaking.

Radu Mihai: The opponents have to return a trump; take in hand; ruff a diamond, ruff a heart, and lead all the trumps for a double squeeze (assuming West has no more than three diamonds).

Steven Bloom: The defense must continue trumps, which I win in hand to trump a diamond. So long as East holds the long diamond and West holds the H A, I am home. Of course, if West is a John Lowenthal clone, I had better try Line D!

The late John Lowenthal, a leading U.S. player, was probably most famous (or infamous) for his clever deceptive tactics, especially on defense. Hence, John might have led the H K from H K-9-8-x-x-x. Recalling an old story: John once led a queen against 3 NT, and declarer asked his partner what it showed. “From past experience,” answered his bewildered partner, “I’m not even sure if it promises the queen.” -RP

Matej Accetto: Unless the return is a trump, I ruff two diamonds in dummy… If whoever wins the second diamond can and does return a trump, I have to hope West started with at most three diamonds and execute a double squeeze… Ducking the first diamond doesn’t work because the suit is blocked without enough communication to both ruff a diamond and keep the threats intact.

Rainer Herrmann: If East has the diamond length, the contract is safe (ruff two diamonds or a double squeeze). If West has length in diamonds, spades will not break anyway, and the contract is doomed. …

Pratap Nair: If a spade is returned, I can ruff both of my losing diamonds. If a trump is returned, the double squeeze looks good.

Bernard Danloy: … This is the safest line. After a spade return, ruffing two diamonds is no problem; and after a trump return, won in hand with the king, I can ruff a diamond, reenter my hand with a heart ruff, and finish trumps for a nice double squeeze…

Franco Baseggio: The opponents must lead a trump to prevent two ruffs in dummy, then just ruff a diamond, ruff a heart, and run trumps for a double squeeze. This will work anytime ruffing out spades would work, plus when West is 2=6=3=2 (a very likely shape).

Ross Lam: Double squeeze, with West guarding hearts and spades, and East guarding diamonds and spades.

Imre Csiszar: This forces a diamond return; then, after a diamond and heart ruff, and running trumps, the contract will be made on a double squeeze — unless West has four diamonds.

George Klemic: Play East for 5=3=4=1 shape. After the forced trump return (else crossruff), win in hand, ruff a diamond, ruff a heart, and run clubs for a double squeeze… P.S.: I know you need six choices, but Line D is insulting.

Cenk Tuncok: Everything else is kind of dicey. … The opponents have to play a second trump (otherwise ruff two diamonds and claim), then the S A remains as an entry for a double squeeze…

Craig Satersmoen: Unless West has four diamonds with his six hearts, I’ll make on the double squeeze.

Nigel Guthrie: Win the trump return, ruff a diamond, and ruff a heart. The double squeeze only needs East to have from 4-7 diamonds — more likely than a 4-3 spade break.

David Chechelashvili: I will have a double squeeze at the end if West has three or fewer diamonds. Ducking a diamond is not good, as there is no entry back to my hand.

Paul Huggins: Looks like a double squeeze, with the added chance that the opponent who wins the second diamond may not have a trump to return (unlikely though if you’re playing against experts). …

Stephen Turner: I must now get either two diamond ruffs, or if an opponent leads a trump, I can ruff one diamond and set up the double squeeze.

Problem 5

IMPsS A 7 5 4WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH K 8 6 2LHOPartnerRHOYou
D A 2Pass
C K J 21 DDbl2 S14 C
Table Pass5 CPassPass
Lead: C 5East plays C 3 Pass
 1. weak
H 5 3
D Q 9 5 4 3
5 C SouthC A Q 10 9 8 7

West found a great lead, preventing two diamond ruffs.

B. Win C J, ruff spade, duck a diamond10438
C. Win C J, ruff spade, win D A9244
F. Win C 10, D A, lead D 2817030
E. Win C 10, duck a diamond7427
D. Win C 10, lead H 3515728
A. Win C J, ruff spade, lead H 3413023

I’m sure most will agree this was toughest problem of the set. The path to 11 tricks is easy against some distributions: If diamonds are 3-3* or if East has the king (or J-10 doubleton), it is straightforward to establish the diamond suit. Any of Lines B, C, E and F will achieve this with the proper follow-up. But what about the more likely situations where West has D K-10-x-x or better? Is your ship sunk by the trump lead? Not necessarily.

*This may seem remote after the 1 D opening, but it’s actually a reasonable chance. In Standard American, the general practice with 3-3 in the minors is to bid the better minor, though in close cases (e.g., D K-x-x C Q-x-x) it is normal to bid 1 C. On this deal there can be no “close” cases, so if West has 3=4=3=3 shape, 1 D would be expected.

There may be a chance to develop an endplay against West. If he has five diamonds (3=3=5=2), this is relatively easy. The general plan is to postpone leading a second diamond until West is stripped of exit cards, which can be achieved via Line A or D. Consider this layout:

IMPsS A 7 5 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None vulH K 8 6 21. WC 52310
D A 22. SH 3A24
C K J 23. WC 6K47
S Q 6 2 TableS K J 10 9 8 34. NS 4KC 82
H A Q JH 10 9 7 45. SD 37A6
D K J 10 8 7D 66. NS A3D 46
C 6 5C 4 37. NS 58C QQ
S8. SH 5JK7
H 5 39. NH 69C 9Q
D Q 9 5 4 3continued below…
5 C SouthC A Q 10 9 8 7

Following Line D, win the C 10 and lead a heart; West hops ace and returns a trump; win in dummy and ruff a spade; D A; S A (pitch a diamond); spade ruff; H K, and a heart ruff to reach this ending:

C win 3 S 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 810. SD 9102S 9
D 2West is endplayed
S TableS J 10 9
HH 10
D K J 10 8D
D Q 9 5
South leadsC A

Finally, exit with a diamond, and West is endplayed to give you the rest. Alas, this works fine on the example deal, but leading a heart before giving up a diamond allows West to defeat you on simple layouts, e.g., with 3-3 in the minors West can lead trumps three times (ouch). Therefore, Lines A and D offer no improvement, and are inferior to the basic lines.

The most likely distribution for West is 3=4=4=2, and it is possible to succeed against some of those hands via labyrinthine technique. Further, and most important, you can pursue this without spoiling your chances against simple layouts. Consider this typical deal:

IMPsS A 7 5 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None vulH K 8 6 21. WC 5J!37
D A 22. NS 4!KC 82
C K J 23. SD 382!7
S Q 6 2 TableS K J 10 9 8 34. WC 6K!49
H A Q J 7H 10 9 45. NS A3H 3!6
D K J 10 8D 7 66. NS 58C 10Q
C 6 5C 4 37. SD 410A6
Scontinued below…
H 5 3
D Q 9 5 4 3
5 C SouthC A Q 10 9 8 7

To bring pressure against West without leading more than two trumps, it is necessary to ruff spades, and you must follow Line B: Win the club in dummy and ruff a spade, then duck a diamond. Assume West returns another trump, won in dummy; ruff a spade; cross to the D A, and cash the S A to pitch a heart. Dummy now leads in this Star Wars type ending:

C win 5 S 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H K 8 6 28. NS 79C QH Q
D9. SH 5J!2!4
C 2West is endplayed
S TableS J 10 9
H A Q J 7H 10 9 4
H 5
D Q 9 5
North leadsC A Q

Ruff the last spade, and West must let go a heart (else diamonds will establish), and suppose he pitches the H Q in an attempt to foil you. Next lead the H 5. If West wins the ace, he is endplayed — forced to establish one red suit or the other. But wait. Suppose West makes the cool play of the H J. Careful! Put that king back. You must duck. Winning the heart trick itself is unimportant, but you must lose the lead to West to effect the endplay. (If West played the H 7, then you would win the king and lose the next heart to West.)

Note that the above endplay requires West to have H A-Q-J (and any fourth heart). With a weaker holding (say, H A-Q-x-x) it could be defeated by the clever discard of the H Q, or even the grandiose discard of the ace. Nonetheless, Line B is clearly best because you can revert to basic play if West turns up with three clubs, or if East has D J-10 or K-x.

This remarkable problem has another eye-opening variation. When you ducked the diamond, West did not need to lead a second trump (with a doubleton) because you cannot ruff two diamonds after wasting the C J. Suppose instead that he cashes the H A and leads the H Q to avoid the previous endplay. Win the H K; cash the S A; ruff a spade; then win the D A to reach this ending — call it Star Wars II:

C win 5 S 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 8 69. NS 7!9C 10C 6!
D10. SC Q!
C K 2West is squeezed
S TableS J 10 9
H J 7H 10
C 6C 4
D Q 9
North leadsC A Q 10

Ruff the last spade, and West is caught in a backwash squeeze. He can’t pitch a diamond; and if he pitches a heart, you can draw trumps with the C K and establish the long heart. His only temporary defense is to underruff. (Note that you still cannot crossruff because of East’s annoying C 4.) But watch what happens when you lead the C Q. West (pity the poor fellow) is now the victim of a seesaw ruffout squeeze: If he pitches a diamond, retain the lead in hand to establish a diamond. If he pitches a heart, overtake in dummy to establish a heart.

Line C may look similar, but it contains a flaw. If you don’t duck the first diamond, West can lead a third diamond early and escape the endplays. (Note that you must ruff high, and you cannot ruff another diamond because of East’s trump.) As against this, Line C has a slight recovery in not going down two when East has a singleton diamond, so it earns second place.

Lines E and F are close for third place, and the edge goes to Line F because it also might avoid a two-trick set when East has one diamond. Lines A and D are the least effective because of their loss to the simple layouts; I couldn’t see any real difference, so I went by the voting. Note that I was generous in the scoring due to the difficulty of the problem.

Groundhog or Woodchuck?

Squeeze terminology is only partly standardized, as alternate names are in use for certain kinds. Probably most notable is the ruffout squeeze, which is also called a trump squeeze. I prefer the former because it describes the technique. Another is the seesaw, which is the same as entry-shifting or overtaking. For example, what I describe above as a “seesaw ruffout squeeze” is called an “overtaking trump squeeze” by several respondents. Same animal!

Comments for B. Win C J, ruff spade, duck a diamond

Tonci Tomic: … If West is 3=3=5=2, it is easy to eliminate his exits and throw him in with diamonds; but with a singleton diamond, East might have doubled the final contract, demanding a diamond lead. So, let’s consider 3=4=4=2 distribution with West. The contract still can be made if West has H A-Q-J-x: Win the diamond return, eliminate spades and clubs (discard a heart on S A), and watch West suffer when you ruff the last spade. Yes, yes, if East ruffs the D A, this play will look quite stupid, but that’s the price of being an expert.

Peter Nixon: Again, a problem that causes me a lot of consternation, because there is no clear-cut solution. As long as East is not 6-4 in the majors, then it looks like Line B works whenever the contract is makable. If East has S Q-J-10-9-x-x H 10-9-x-x D x C x-x, then Lines A, C and D work, and B fails. I’ll go with B and hope that East is not willing to bypass a possible heart fit.

Gareth Birdsall: Standard nonmaterial dummy reversal in order to execute an overtaking trump squeeze or bog-standard squeeze without the count depending on how they defend.

John Reardon: This is a fascinating and very difficult hand. Once I have ducked a diamond: (1) Assuming a second trump is led, win C K; S A (throwing a heart); spade ruff; cross to D A; spade ruff; [ending described]. (2) Assuming East plays ace and another heart; win H K; S A (throwing a diamond); spade ruff; cross to D A; spade ruff; [ending described]. (3) Any other play by East makes life easy. This means I will succeed when West has any 3=4=3=3 hand or any 3=4=4=2 hand that includes H A-Q-J-x.

Rob Stevens: Clearly, I can make against West’s 3=3=5=2 or 2=4=5=2 pattern by ruffing out West’s major-suit exit cards before drawing a second trump and exiting with D A, diamond (though I would have to guess which pattern West held). However, 3=4=3=3 and 3=4=4=2 patterns are more likely. To make against the former is trivial. It isn’t easy against the latter, but in fact can be done provided West’s hearts are A-Q-J-x or A-Q-J-10. I should use dummy’s two club and diamond entries to ruff all three low spades (throwing a heart on the H A); [ending described]. … When a diamond is ducked, if West instead plays H A, heart, I can change tack and use the H K and D A to ruff spades, on the last of which West is squeezed in three suits, including trumps; [ending described]; [then finally] an entry-shifting squeeze. Absolutely breathtaking!

N. Scott Cardell: … West is likely to have exactly 3=4=4=2 distribution… and the best chance is that West also has H A-Q-J-x. Line B puts the defense to an immediate choice, and whatever they do I can succeed: [main variations described]. [Another variation]: If the defense exits in hearts without winning the H A, I win the H K; [pitch my other heart] and have entries to set up diamonds, losing just two diamonds total.

Charles Blair: I am assuming West is 3=4=4=2. The most exotic variation is: H A; heart to king; spade ruff; D A; S A; spade ruff (West is squeezed out of his club); C Q for an overtaking trump squeeze. If, after winning the diamond, the defenders return a trump or a diamond: ruff a spade; return to dummy; S A and another spade. At this point West is down to three hearts, and I try to establish dummy’s fourth one. …

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: The most difficult problem of this set! … There are a few possible shapes West could have, for which I have different ways of making this game… but I will choose 3=4=4=2, as it is the most probable. Let’s say they return another trump: Now I will cash the S A discarding a heart, ruff the third spade, and continue with a diamond to the ace. When I ruff the last spade, West will be caught in a “trump squeeze without the count.”

Marcus Chiloarnus: Fingers crossed.

Steven Bloom: … [Besides the easy cases] I can handle this with a squeeze if West is 3=4=4=2; but against first-rate defense, I will need West to have started with H A-Q-J-x. Would East bid 2 S with four hearts on the side? Would West open a balanced 11-count? Would West pitch the H Q on the fourth spade to get to East with the H J?

Bernard Danloy: … It seems clear from the bidding that West is [most likely] 3=4=4=2… [and it may be] possible to squeeze West so that a diamond gets high in hand or a heart in dummy. This was the hardest problem of the contest since you must check your ability to handle any continuation. Let me just say that every return requires a specific response… and the winning play is sometimes spectacular, like overtaking the C Q with the king.

Roger Morton: Instinct! But my plans are very obscure.

James Sheppard: What do we do now? Try and squeeze West I suppose.

Comments for C. Win C J, ruff spade, win D A

George Klemic: … This might lead to a squeeze, and is unlikely to hurt. Ducking the diamond looks dangerous as the chance of East having just one is very real.

Craig Satersmoen: Then ruff another spade, cross to the C K, and ruff the fourth round of spades — and hope they make a mistake, I guess.

Problem 6

MatchpointsS A 7 5 3WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH 8 6 5LHOPartnerRHOYou
D A K 52 HDblPass3 H
C Q J 10Pass3 SPass4 C
Table Pass5 CPass6 C
Lead: D 9East plays D 2 PassPassPass
S 8
H A 2
D Q 8 7 4
6 C SouthC A K 9 8 7 6

Note: When you lead trumps, East follows once then discards S 6 and D 3.

F. Win D Q, C Q-J-10, duck a heart1010719
A. Win D A, S A, ruff spade, win C Q816529
C. Win D A, C Q-J-10, duck a heart411019
D. Win D Q, S A, ruff spade, win C Q37714
B. Win D A, C Q-J-10, H A25810
E. Win D Q, C Q-J-10, duck a spade1499

There are 11 top tricks, and the fourth diamond is the obvious candidate for 12. This will be easy if diamonds are 3-3 or trumps are 2-2, however you soon learn that West has three trumps, and the discarding makes it clear the diamond lead was a singleton. Combined with information from the bidding, this makes the enemy distribution an open book (West must be 3=6=1=3). Even so, it is still not obvious how to succeed, though your thoughts turn to squeeze play. Consider this typical layout:

MatchpointsS A 7 5 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S vulH 8 6 51. WD 95!2Q
D A K 52. SC 63Q2
C Q J 103. NC JS 674
S Q 9 2 TableS K J 10 6 44. NC 10D 385
H K J 10 7 4 3H Q 9continued below…
D 9D J 10 6 3 2
C 5 4 3C 2
S 8
H A 2
D Q 8 7 4
6 C SouthC A K 9 8 7 6

The enemy distribution offers three squeeze options: (1) a double squeeze with spades the common suit (West guards hearts, East guards diamonds), (2) a simple squeeze against East, who alone guards the fourth spade besides diamonds, or (3) a ruffout squeeze against East (alternative to a simple squeeze using the same threats). Each of these requires giving up a trick to rectify the count, which means entries will be subject to attack. Further, you must draw trumps first (else suffer a diamond ruff) so there is little flexibility.

It should also be apparent that the simple squeeze requires you to ruff two spades early to isolate the spade threat, and doing so kills both of the other options. If you pursue only one option, the opponents will surely kill it, so you must keep two options alive. This means winning the diamond lead in hand, which enables Options 1 and 3. After drawing trumps as stipulated you will reach this position, though it makes no difference which hand is on lead:

C win 8 S A 7 5 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 8 6 55. NH 592!4
D A K6. ED 64H 3K
C7. ND A!107H 7
S Q 9 2 TableS K J 10 48. NH 6QA10
H K J 10 7 4 3H Q 99. SC AH JS 3S 4
DD J 10 610. SC KS 2S 5S 10
CCcontinued below…
S 8
H A 2
D 8 7 4
North leadsC A K 9

Next you must rectify the count by ducking a heart (Line F). Note that ducking a spade (or winning the H A first) does not work because it ruins your communication for the double squeeze, and East can return a diamond to kill the ruffout squeeze. Suppose East wins the heart and returns a diamond. Cash the other top diamond, cross to the H A and lead trumps to reach this ending:

C win 3 S A 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 811. SC 9S 9H 8?
DEast is squeezed
S Q 9 TableS K J
S 8
D 8
South leadsC 9

The last trump inflicts the double squeeze. (Compare Problem 4 which reaches virtually the same ending.)

When you ducked the heart, if the opponents instead led a spade or another heart, it would kill the double squeeze; but then the ruffout squeeze saves the day. Win the S A, ruff a spade and cash the H A (if not already) to reach this ending:

C win 5 S 7 5TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 89. SC AH 7H 8?
D A KEast is squeezed
S Q TableS J 10
H K J 10 7H
DD J 10 6
D 8 7 4
South leadsC A K

Next lead a trump and discard a heart from dummy. East has no answer: If he pitches a spade, you will establish a spade trick with a ruff. If he pitches a diamond, your long diamond will be good. Also note that there is no ambiguity, because when you cross to the D K West will show out.

Line F is the only surefire plan, so it easily gets the top award. Of the remaining options, Line A (aiming for the simple squeeze) earns second place because it will succeed against many layouts; and even when it is defeatable, the defense must be careful on each spade lead: East must play high enough so the trick cannot be ducked to West (to rectify the count safely), and West must keep a spade higher than dummy’s seven (else declarer needn’t ruff two spades to isolate the threat).

Lines B, C, D and E are about equally poor, as they do not work against any layout consistent with the bidding and play (assuming proper defense). Since I always break ties, I went by the voting to assign the 4-3-2-1 awards. In bridge parlance, I guess you could call this the non-Work point count.

Comments for F. Win D Q, C Q-J-10, duck a heart

Tonci Tomic: If West has 3=6=1=3 or 2=6=2=3 distribution, Line F is the winner. On a [diamond] return there is a double squeeze with spades as the long threat. On a spade [or heart] return, there is a [ruffout] squeeze against East in spades and diamonds.

Peter Nixon: … Win the D Q on the general principle that you should preserve your entries in the hand opposite the long trumps. East is obviously 5-5 in the pointed suits, and the heart duck rectifies the count for the impending trump squeeze [or double squeeze].

Gareth Birdsall: I need to keep D A-K in dummy to effect a trump squeeze on East after the spade return breaks up the double squeeze.

John Reardon: At last, a contract that is almost certain: (1) If East returns a diamond, I cash the last diamond and cross back to the H A before running trumps. There is a double squeeze with spades as the middle suit; [ending described]. (2) If East returns anything else, I cash the S A and ruff a spade before catching East in a trump squeeze; [ending described].

Rob Stevens: I plan for a squeeze and must be careful to preserve all my options lest the opponents destroy the entries after I duck a trick. After Line F, I can either play a double squeeze after a [diamond] return (cash other diamond, return to H A, run clubs) or a trump squeeze against East after [any other] return (ruff spade, run all trumps but one…).

N. Scott Cardell: This hand is similar to Problem 5, in that the early duck forces the defense to commit, then I can adjust to overcome any specific defense. … A weak two-bid normally denies four cards in an unbid major, and the lead of the D 9 should deny the jack or 10, so it rates to be from shortness, probably a singleton (though at trick one it might be a doubleton). … Line F guarantees the contract if these assumptions are correct. The heart duck isolates the heart guard with West, while preserving a heart reentry to my hand. If the defense returns a diamond, [double squeeze explained]. If the defense returns a major suit, [ruffout squeeze explained]. I note that the diamond sluff removes any chance of ambiguity because, when I lead a diamond to the board after running all but one trump, the exact distribution will be revealed…

Neelotpal Sahai: The enemy distribution is marked: West is 3=6=1=3 and East is 5=2=5=1. If I can force the defenders not to return a spade (!) then Line C [would work] for the double squeeze. If the defenders are not obliging (they never are in set problems) then a trump squeeze is needed [in reserve], and this requires two diamond entries in dummy. Hearts is the only suit that can be ducked safely, so Line F.

Walter Lee: We need a name for this sort of deal: A double trump fork?

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Depending on the opponents’ return, I will choose the squeeze available: (1) If a heart or a spade, I will go for the trump squeeze against East, as West seems to be 3=6=1=3. (2) If East wins the ducked heart and returns a diamond (breaking the trump squeeze), I will cash the other diamond honor, then play a heart to my ace and go for the double squeeze.

Marcus Chiloarnus: I once won a soup bowl by squeezing a monkey on a similar hand.

Maybe so, but you win my vote for a one-way ticket to the loony bin.

Herbert Wilton: No matter what the defense returns, I have squeezes available, since the weak two-bidder is 3=6=1=3 leaving his partner with 5=2=5=1.

Frances Hinden: This is 100 percent if West has six hearts. On a spade [or heart] return, ruff a spade and catch East in a trump squeeze; on a [diamond] return there is a straightforward double squeeze.

Radu Mihai: If the opponents return a heart or a spade, ruff a spade and finish with a trump squeeze against East. If East wins and returns a diamond, win the other diamond, H A, and all the trumps for a double squeeze.

Steven Bloom: I am threatening a ruffing squeeze on East. The only way to break it up is [for East] to win the heart and lead a second diamond, but that gives me a double squeeze.

Matej Accetto: If the opponents don’t return a spade [or a heart], I can clubber my way to a classic double squeeze with spades as the common threat… But I expect the defenders will want to club my [double squeeze]; in that case I win the S A, ruff a spade, cash the H A [if still there] and lead a club; [ruffout squeeze described]. Either way, a clubbable slam is brought home.

Rainer Herrmann: East-West have a choice between a trump squeeze and a double squeeze.

Alan Wilson: Reading the cards isn’t difficult. It looks like West is 3=6=1=3, so I just need to be a little careful over entries to ensure either a trump squeeze… or a double squeeze. … The defense cannot remove the entries needed for both options when they win the heart.

Bernard Danloy: It is clear that the lead is a singleton and that West is 3=6=1=3. This implies that East can probably be squeezed in diamonds and spades. With D A-K-x in dummy and D Q-x-x-x in hand, it is tempting to win the diamond lead on the table in order to preserve communication within the suit; but the winning line is just the opposite. … [After Line F] a diamond return from East is the only one which prevents the planned squeeze against East; but it gives you the chance to cash all your winners in diamonds, hearts and clubs to finish with a double squeeze.

Franco Baseggio: It looks like East is 5=2=5=1. The heart duck forces a spade [or heart] back to break up a double squeeze, then just ruff a spade and cash all South winners but one trump for a ruffing squeeze. Winning [the first trick] in dummy and trying to isolate spades for a simple squeeze won’t [necessarily] work without helpful defense.

Imre Csiszar: If a diamond is returned, cash another diamond; win the H A, and run trumps for a double squeeze. Else, win the S A; ruff a spade; H A; club, and East will be squeezed in spades and diamonds.

Anil Upadhyay: This keeps all the squeezes intact. If a spade or heart is returned, [double squeeze described]. If West returns a diamond, [ruffout squeeze described].

Graham Osborne: First I threaten a double squeeze. If the opponents break it up by playing a spade [or heart], then I have a trump squeeze against East (assuming he is 5=2=5=1).

Leonard Helfgott: Keeping the D A-K in dummy is necessary for the trump-squeeze matrix against East’s spades and diamonds. Regardless of which player wins the heart duck, I can always execute either the aforementioned squeeze or a double squeeze (with spades as pivot) against both opponents, assuming West is 3=6=1=3.

Yanko Yankov: On a spade [or heart] return I will have a [ruffout] squeeze against East. On diamond return there will be double squeeze with spades as double threat.

Niklas Warne: Setting up for a [ruffout] squeeze (should opponents continue with a major) or a double squeeze (if East tries a diamond).

Erkki Malkamaki: This is 100 percent (if West has six hearts). If a spade or a heart is returned, I will ruff a spade and East will be in a trump squeeze. If a diamond comes back, it is an ordinary double squeeze.

Michael Day: If the opponents return a diamond, there will be an obvious double squeeze (the diamond threatens East; dummy’s third heart threatens West; no one can protect spades). If they return a spade, simply ruff a spade, cash the H A, and lead the next-to-last trump… to catch East in a spade-diamond trump squeeze.

Final Notes

Thanks to all who responded, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site.

Comments are selected from those above average (top 294), and on each problem only those supporting the winning play (except Problems 2 and 5). While this might be considered biased, I feel it’s the best way to ensure solid content and avoid potential embarrassment by publishing comments that are off base. On this basis, I included almost 75 percent of the eligible comments. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

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.

Since my theme was clubs, I cannot think of a better time to thank the Noosa Bridge Club of Queensland, Australia, and especially Sandy McCulloch, who inspired more than 20 of the club’s members to participate. To put this in perspective, my home club in Fort Lauderdale with about 500 members submitted only four entries.

I’ll leave you with these remarks overheard in the club car:

Grant Peacock: You forgot Mr. Short, Mr. Big, Mr. Roman and Mr. Blue.

Gerald Tan: I think I just got clubbed to death.

Michael Day: Is this contest the newest version of the Sectional Tournament at clubs?

Bill Powell: Club contracts are never going to become popular if they’re this tough!

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek