Analyses 7V96  MainChallenge

Slammin’ Sammy Goes Deep

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

During the month of August 2002, these six defensive-play problems were published on the Internet as a contest open to all bridge players. As West or East, the object was to defeat each slam contract by choosing the best lead at trick two.

Problem 123456Final Notes

Darek Kardas Wins!

This contest had 638 participants from 103 locations, and the average score was 39.24. No less than 11 perfect scores this month! First in the dugout was Darek Kardas (Poland), followed by Frances Hinden, John Reardon and Marcus Chiloarnus (all United Kingdom). Rounding out the team were Meelis Tiitson (Estonia), Sivakumar Salem (India), Howard Abrams (US), Roger Morton (UK), Hanchang Wang (US), Ed Davis (US) and Graham Osborne (UK). Congratulations all!

In the overall standings, the top two positions were unchanged as Rob Stevens (Santa Cruz, California US) and John Reardon (London, England UK) increased their averages to 58.50 and 58.00, respectively. Moving into third place was Gabriel Nita-Saguna (Willowdale, Ontario, Canada) with a 57.00 average.

The dispersion of scores this month was atypical. Usually the average and median are close, but this time there was more than a full point difference (39.24 average, 38 median). Obviously, this is due to the large number of scores at or near the top. Poor Sammy. Too many Golden Glovers out there!

A new country was added this month to my list of participating countries. I’m sure all join me in welcoming Georgiy Shevchenko of Ukraine (country code UA).

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 lead is scored on a 1-to-10 scale, based on my judgment, which may be influenced by comments received.

Problem 1

MatchpointsS A K 4WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH K 10 8 6YouDummyPartnerSammy
D Q 8 7 51 NTPass4 C1
C K 3Pass4 HPass6 D
S Q 9 8TablePassPassPass
H Q J 9 7 
D 21. Gerber
C Q 9 8 6 5 6 D South

1. WH Q653

Next LeadAwardVotesPercent
S 91018128
S Q9569
H 7711318
D 2521333
C 63437
C 92325

The appearance of dummy caused some apprehension after your lead, but partner fortunately has the ace. Since the location of the heart honors is obvious to both you and partner, this situation is analogous to the lead of a king against a slam; i.e., the only signal that matters is count so you can determine if another heart will cash. Attitude is useless. Therefore, partner’s play of the H 5 (the highest outstanding heart spot) must be from A-5-4-2 or A-5; it cannot be from three cards.

Suppose Sammy has a singleton heart, which seems likely. It is obvious that Sammy must have the C A, so a club lead is pointless. Unless partner has a trump trick (extremely unlikely), the only hope to beat the slam is to win an eventual spade trick; so it may seem right to exit safely in trumps and wait. Not. Consider this typical layout:

MatchpointsS A K 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None vulH K 10 8 61. WH Q653
D Q 8 7 52. WD 2?56K
C K 33. SD JC 5Q4
S Q 9 8 TableS J 7 5 24. NH 82D 107
H Q J 9 7H A 5 4 25. SC 26K4
D 2D 6 46. NC 37A8
C Q 9 8 6 5C 10 7 47. SC JQD 710
S 10 6 38. ND 8S 2AC 9
H 3continued below…
D A K J 10 9 3
6 D SouthC A J 2

If you pitch Sammy a trump at trick two, it will be like a hanging curve ball. Good-bye. It’s gone! He will draw trumps, ruff a heart, ruff the third club in dummy, and return to hand in trumps to reach this position:

D win 5 S A K 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H K 109. SD 9?S 4?
DWest and East squeezed
S Q 9 8 TableS J 7 5
H J 9H A 4
S 10 6 3
D 9 3
South leadsC

On the next trump, Sammy discards the S 4 from dummy, and you and partner are dead. If you discard a heart, Sammy will run the king to crush your jack; or if partner discards a heart, a low heart lead will ruff out his ace. The only way to prevent this is for both of you to discard a spade, but then Sammy’s third spade will be good. Also note that Sammy will not misguess the layout, because he knows hearts were 4-4 from partner’s signal at Trick 1, and partner had to signal correctly to avert a heart continuation.

An important characteristic of the above ending (called a double ruffout squeeze, or a double trump squeeze) is the need for two entries to dummy: one to establish the heart, and another to return to enjoy it. Therein lies the solution. You must switch to a spade at trick two to remove one of the entries, then Sammy must fail.

The only question that remains is which spade. Any spade will do in my example, so it is necessary to consider other possibilities. Ignoring cases that don’t matter, the S 9 gains when declarer has (1) S J-x-x H 3 D A-K-J-10-x-x C A-J-x, and the S Q gains when declarer has (2) S J H 4-3-2 D A-K-J-10-x-x C A-x-x. In Case 1 declarer could succeed*, but the correct technical play is to win the S K, and eventually rely on the club finesse if nothing good happens in hearts and the S Q fails to drop. By combinatorial arithmetic, Case 1 is six times more likely than Case 2, so the edge goes to leading the S 9.

*Not only by ducking the spade, but also by leading the H K to transfer the heart threat and then squeezing West in the majors (after ruffing the club).

Leading the H 7 gets third place, as the cash-out (when declarer has H 4-3-2) could be crucial if declarer has seven diamonds and the S J, or conceivable eight diamonds. A key factor that makes this defense inferior to a spade lead is that a heart may not be necessary when declarer has three hearts, but a spade is always necessary when declarer has a stiff heart.

The remaining options (D 2, C 9 and C 6) are clearly inferior. Essentially, they accomplish nothing toward defeating the contract whether South has one or three hearts. I couldn’t think of a layout where one wins over the other, so I ranked them by the voting, with an extra point for the D 2 based on the lopsided numbers.

Comments for the S 9

Frances Hinden: Partner must give count here. … I don’t think there’s any difference between the S 9 and the queen, but no reason to make life too easy for declarer.

John Reardon: Trying to break up [squeeze ending described]. Although the S Q caters to South having a singleton jack and three low hearts, it is more likely to cost because, when South has S J-x-x and C A-J-x, he might try the club finesse if I lead the S 9.

Marcus Chiloarnus: My partner will not be pleased if I do not break up this obvious squeeze position.

Sivakumar Salem: If declarer has the S J, he can play for a transfer squeeze; so partner must have the S J, so it is immaterial whether I shift to the queen or nine.

Howard Abrams: If declarer has S 10-x-x H 3 D A-K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x, the only lead to defeat the contract is a spade. … Which spade? If declarer holds S 10-x-x-x H 3 D A-K-x-x-x-x-x C A, [it doesn’t matter], however, if declarer holds S 10-x-x-x-x H 3 D A-K-J-10-x-x C A, leading the queen lets the contract make. …

Roger Morton: The heart suit is a menace to both partner and me, and we will be trump squeezed out of our spade stopper if I don’t remove a spade entry first.

Hanchang Wang: From the play to the first trick, partner rates to have H A-5 or H A-5-4-2… If partner has H A-5, most likely we will get another heart trick… so let’s focus on [the other]. Suppose declarer has three spades… and his minors are 6-3. I cannot beat the contract if he has S J because I will be squeezed in spades and hearts [after transferring heart threat], but without the S J, a spade lead beats it because dummy does not have enough entries for the trump squeeze. …

Ed Davis: A spade lead is necessary to break up a trump squeeze if declarer started with S x-x-x H x D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-J-x.

N. Scott Cardell: For South’s bidding to be sensible his diamonds must be at least as good as A-K-J-x-x-x; also he should have the C A, and a singleton heart. (Presumably partner’s H 5 is count from A-5-4-2.) Because declarer didn’t look for a 4-4 trump fit, the chances are excellent that his distribution is 3=1=6=3. … The heart and spade position is ideal for a double trump squeeze, [which] requires both the S A and S K to function. So lead the S 9…

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: If South has seven diamonds [and a singleton heart], I will not be able to prevent him from taking 12 tricks… My [best] hope is South’s shape to be 3=1=6=3, and if I don’t return a spade right now, a [trump] squeeze will take place later on, as declarer will have the two necessary entries to dummy [in spades]. The S 9 is better than the queen in case South has S J-x-x and C A-J-x, as he will have the alternative of finessing in clubs. If he has the S J only, whatever I return he will be able to succeed by transferring the heart threat to me and then squeezing me in the majors.

Neelotpal Sahai: … If declarer has S J-x-x H x D A-K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x, he has a simple squeeze against me after he ruffs out East’s H A. If declarer has S x-x-x H x D A-K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x, he has a trump squeeze… [unless I lead a spade]. …

Douglas Dunn: A spade return is needed if South is 3=1=6=3 to break up a ruffing squeeze in hearts and spades.

Eric Leong: A spade continuation is necessary to break up the squeeze. [Ending described.] Leading the S 9 is better than the queen as declarer might have, say, S J-x-x and C A-J-x and decide to play partner for the C Q and finesse the jack into you.

Kieran Dyke: I’ll assume that the H 5 is count from A-5-4-2. Declarer looks to be 3=1=7=2 or 3=1=6=3. In either case, he’s cold if I leave the entry position alone [ending described]. A spade switch now is therefore mandatory, and I might as well lead the nine [since] the queen…might take away a losing option.

Gareth Birdsall: There is a danger that if declarer has three spades he will squeeze both of us in hearts and spades. But declarer needs two late entries to dummy to effect a trump squeeze. A spade return takes away one of these entries.

Jeff Goldsmith: We are toast if declarer has seven diamonds. He has 11 top tricks, and either a club ruff, or a riffle-diffle double trump squeeze if 3=1=7=2 (even a spade shift doesn’t break it up since the C K is the second entry). So assume declarer has six diamonds. If he has four clubs, he’s home with two ruffs, so our only hope is 3=1=6=3. Now a spade shift breaks up the double trump squeeze. …

Paulinho Brum: This defeats S 10-x-x-x H x D A-K-J-x-x-x-x C A; most other hands can’t be defeated.

Tim Bolshaw: Declarer has either H 4-3-2 or a singleton. Does restricted choice apply? I think yes, and a singleton is also more likely on the bidding. I also assume declarer has at most three spades. Then the only (slim) chance is that he has S x-x-x H 3 D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-J-x. The spade switch breaks up the double trump squeeze. It is a close between low and the queen: if he has S J-x-x, he may rise, but he will certainly run it if he happens to hold S J H 4-3-2 D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-Q-J or similar.

Franco Baseggio: Declarer has nine tricks in the minors, and the S 9 [may] break up a double ruffing squeeze. [Ending described.] …

Julian Wightwick: If declarer has: S x-x-x H x D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-J-x, I need to take away a spade entry to prevent us both being squeezed in the majors.

Daniel Korbel: A double trump squeeze looms if declarer is 3=1=6=3. The S 9 is better than the S Q because if declarer has S J-x-x H x D A-K-x-x-x-x C A-J-x, he will probably take the club finesse.

Manuel Paulo: I assume declarer’s hand is S 10-x-x H 3 D A-K-J-10-x-x C A-J-x or alike (partner having the S J and the C 10), in which case the lead of a spade destroys the impending trump squeeze.

Dale Freeman: Trying to stop a trump squeeze. If declarer has 11 tricks and S J-x-x, he can transfer the heart menace to me and squeeze me in hearts and spades anyway.

David Grainger: Partner is showing an even number of hearts at trick one. Assuming the C A and D A-K, declarer must have three spades to not have 12 tricks. [Potential trump squeeze described.] A spade shift now will remove an entry…

Thomas Peters: Removes the entry for a double trump squeeze [when declarer has] S 10-x-x-x H 3 D A-K-J-x-x-x-x C A, or S 10-x-x H 3 D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-x-x.

Peter Nixon: It seems obvious that South has a stiff heart. If South has S 10-x-x-x H x D A-K-10-9-x-x-x C A, any spade beats it. If South has S 10-x-x-x-x H x D A-K-10-9-x-x C A, then I need to lead the S 9, or a club [or diamond]. So, the S 9 it is. Interestingly, if South has S 10-x-x H x D A-K-J-10-9-x-x C A-x, it needs an opening lead of the S 8 (or 9) to beat it.

Leonard Helfgott: South can always ruff clubs if needed, so I must assume he’s 3=1=6=3. If he has the S J, I’m always victim to a transfer squeeze; but if not, I need to lead spade now to kill the double trump squeeze. [Ending described.]

Harold Simon: It looks like I need South to be 3=1=6=3 with 12 tricks via a club ruff in dummy. The spade switch will…destroy the transportation for South to [squeeze] me down to the H Q alone (or partner down to the stiff H A) and [establish] a heart winner…

David Harari: I have to break the double ruffing squeeze if declarer has S x-x-x H 3 D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-J-x. I can see no point in leading the queen.

Yanko Yankov: Without a spade return, declarer could make the slam even if he has S x-x-x, squeezing E-W in spades and hearts.

Steve White: Attack entries for the double trump squeeze.

Olivier La Spada: To break the double squeeze a l’atout with South having S x-x-x H x D A-K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x.

Toby Kenney: I seem to have set up a double trump squeeze, so I should lead spades to cut communications, and leading the queen removes declarer’s guess if he holds S J-x-x H x D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-J-x.

Charles Blair: If South has S x-x-x-x H x D A-K-x-x-x-x-x C A, this will prevent what James Kauder called a “double crisscross riffle-diffle trump squeeze.” Ely Culbertson gives an example of this squeeze in a 1934 book, with Alfred Sheinwold as declarer. I asked Mr. Sheinwold about it at the Chicago Nationals (late ‘80s), and he remembered the deal right away.

Etienne Klis: To avoid the trump squeeze. Declarer’s hand may be S x-x-x H x D A-K-J-x-x-x C A-J-x.

Rainer Herrmann: Declarer needs three spades to give the defense a chance. If spades are not attacked, a trump squeeze in the majors is there. If declarer has the S J, a simple squeeze against West is there after transferring the menace. The S 9 looks better [than the queen] since declarer will have the option of a club finesse with both black jacks.

Richard Stein: … If South is 3=1=7=2, the double trump squeeze can’t be stopped; but if he’s 4=1=7=1, it can (and must) be broken with a spade switch. …

Thomas Kniest: [This is] cold on a trump squeeze if I don’t lead a spade; however, why lead the queen? If declarer has the S J, we’re done. If I lead the nine, he might [have other options].

Hendrik Sharples: Partner should have signaled count, as attitude is (now) obvious, so no more hearts are cashing. [We are] ripe for a squeeze, but I will work on declarer’s communications by leading a hopefully deceptive S 9.

Marvin French: This won’t kill the trump squeeze if declarer has seven diamonds and a doubleton club, but it’s my only chance after partner gives count in hearts. Declarer won’t duck the spade to his J-x-x if he has it, as ruffing out the H A [and other chances] would look more promising…

Barry Rigal: I am trying to break up the squeeze where declarer reduces [dummy] to S A-K and H K-10 and neither defender can keep three spades. …

Comments for the S Q

Jean-Marc Bihl: South seems to be 3=1=6=3 and even with S 5-3-2, he will succeed by a double trump squeeze. To stop this, I have to lead a spade. The S Q is better when that tricky South happens to be 1=3=6=3 with a stiff S J.

Rob Stevens: Kills the double trump squeeze and takes care of the putative singleton S J.

John Duquette: Great problem! I spent so much time on this one that I was worn out for the others. I’m thinking my best chance is that declarer [has] S 10-x-x H x D A-K-J-10-x-x C A-J-10 and plays for the squeeze rather than guessing clubs…

Problem 2

MatchpointsS Q 2WestNorthEastSouth
Both vulH K Q JYouDummyPartnerSammy
D A K 5 41 NTPass2 H1
C Q 8 6 3Pass2 SPass3 H
S J 10TablePass4 DPass6 H
H 9 5 4 3PassPassPass
D Q 8 7 
C A K 9 2 6 H South1. Jacoby transfer

1. WC K3710

Next LeadAwardVotesPercent
C A1026341
H 31019631
S 10612419
D 85295
D Q2203
C 2161

Normally I break all ties, however slight, but this time I felt obliged to award two 10s because of an ambiguous statement on the contest page. I said that each slam can be defeated. While this was not intended to include double-dummy play by Sammy, it certainly could be interpreted that way. I intended the top award to go to the C A, based on a typical layout like the following:

MatchpointsS Q 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both vulH K Q J1. WC K3710
D A K 5 42. WH 3?K26
C Q 8 6 33. NH QC 474
S J 10 TableS 9 5 4 34. NS Q3610
H 9 5 4 3H 25. NS 24AJ
D Q 8 7D 10 9 6 36. SS 7C 2H J5
C A K 9 2C J 7 5 47. NC 65H 89
S A K 8 7 68. SH A5D 4D 3
H A 10 8 7 69. SH 109C 8C J
D J 2Declarer succeeds
6 H SouthC 10

If you fail to tap Sammy, he has an easy make: Draw two rounds of trumps, ruff the third round of spades in dummy, ruff a club back to hand, draw trumps and round the bases, er, I mean claim. If instead you force him to ruff a club early, he is in trouble. Proper technique would be to draw two rounds of trumps, then (1) if they split 3-2, ruff a spade and claim, or (2) if they split 4-1, continue drawing trumps and hope spades break or one of several squeeze chances materialize. Accurate defense foils the squeezes, so the contract would fail.

Alas, at double-dummy Sammy could succeed on a crossruff. The play must be timed carefully, but it works.

Now suppose partner’s singleton heart were the 10 (swap the H 2 and H 10). If you continue clubs (or lead a spade or diamond), Sammy still has a double-dummy make, but a trump shift defeats the contract against any play. Hence, those who interpreted my statement as a double-dummy claim felt they had to play for this layout. Many of the astute respondents knew the C A was the best practical defense, but chose the H 3 only because of my statement. Therefore, both score 10. If you led a trump for some other reason, consider yourself lucky.

Among the other choices, there’s not much to savor. The S 10 is a feeble attempt to deceive (would any good player lead a spade from 10-x or a stiff 10?); essentially, it’s just a passive lead with no real benefit. The same can be said for the D 8 (Sammy would never risk ducking it). Leading the D Q, however, is much worse as it might offer a free trick (note also how it sets up partner for a squeeze in my example diagram), and leading a low club is worst of all as it always offers a free trick.

Comments for the C A

Sivakumar Salem: Partner must have S 9-x-x-x to defeat the contract.

Jean-Marc Bihl: I just hope that partner will be kind enough to have the S 9, so [if declarer] ruffs a spade in dummy, … my H 9 will score. Good cards, these major-suit nines!

Eric Leong: Leading the C A can’t hurt as, at worst, all declarer can do is pitch his [long] spade on the C Q. However, if partner is decent enough to hold S 9-x-x-x, declarer will have handling problems; [he can’t] ruff a spade in dummy and get back to his hand to finish drawing trumps.

Kieran Dyke: Looks like declarer has S A-K-8-x-x H A-10-x-x-x D x-x C x. Any other lead lets declarer ruff a spade, cash top trumps and return to hand with a club ruff to pull trumps.

Brad Bart: I play the C A in the hopes that we have two fast winners; and then I wake up, suddenly remembering that this is a Richard Pavlicek problem. :) Declarer likely has S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C 10 for the bidding. If declarer owns the S 9, we are sunk, so let’s say partner has it. But then, declarer must hold the H 10 to have a shot. So, on any lead except the C A, declarer will test trumps, play three rounds of spades, ruffing in dummy, and cross back to hand with a club ruff to draw the remaining trumps. The club tap surrenders a club trick (declarer’s 11th) but disrupts his timing.

Shyam Sashital: The established C Q does not help declarer. Instead, the 4-1 trump break leads to…communication problems. …

Gareth Birdsall: The C A will prevent declarer from being able to ruff spades good and return to hand to draw trumps. It’s a good job that dummy’s diamond pips are low, or a guard squeeze would see him home.

Sandy Barnes: If declarer has to ruff a spade, I need to shorten his trumps in hand.

Tim Bolshaw: Declarer surely has [at least] S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C 10. If partner holds S 9-x-x-x and H 10, passive defense will prevail; but this is remote. A better practical chance is to force declarer and hope he plays for 3-2 trumps rather than a crossruff.

Bob Boudreau: The pump should give declarer handling problems if partner is good enough to hold the S 9. Declarer certainly doesn’t need a discard on the C Q.

Dima Nikolenkov: Partner needs S 9-x-x-x, and declarer must be 5=5=2=1. The C A will make it impossible for declarer to ruff a spade and draw trumps without making my H 9 high.

David Grainger: I’m assuming declarer is 5=5=2=1, and partner has S 9-x-x-x, else the hand is easily cold. Declarer only has 10 tricks before establishing spades, and will only have 11 when I set up the C Q. This reduces declarer’s trumps to my length, and…declarer will be unable to [ruff a spade and] draw trumps…

Erkki Malkamaki: This prevents the spade ruff. I hope partner has S 9-x-x-x and D J-x-x-x or 10-9-x-x.

Al Hollander: Declarer figures to hold S A-K-x-x-x H A-10-x-x-x D x-x C 10. If partner holds S 9-x-x-x, my H 9 comes into play if I knock out declarer’s ruffing entry early. Declarer won’t be able to ruff the fourth-round spade loser and pull trumps. If the C A is not played at trick two, declarer has [an easy time].

Leonard Helfgott: The forced ruff [should] beat the slam whenever partner holds a stiff H 10 or S 9-x-x-x, since declarer can’t [ruff a spade] and reenter [his hand] to pull trumps without setting up my trump length.

David Harari: If declarer’s spades are good, the hand is over, so assume he has S A-K-8-x-x H A-10-x-x-x D x-x C x. Then he has to get back to his hand after ruffing a spade, so I must shorten his trumps now.

John Torrey: One 9-x-x-x deserves another.

Etienne Klis: Declarer is forced to ruff, then he can’t ruff a spade to make that suit good and return to hand without promoting my H 9. I just need partner to have the S 9.

Petter Bengtsson: South, with S A-K-8-x-x H A-10-x-x-x D x-x C 10, can’t get back to his hand after ruffing a spade in dummy without shorting his own trump holding.

Brian Ross: I’m sure declarer’s biffing this, but the setting trick [may] come in trumps, assuming partner has S 9-x-x-x.

David Shelton: South should be 6-5 or a strong 5-5 in the majors, or even 6-6. … If South ruffs the C A, chances are a discard on the C Q won’t help, and it might make pulling trumps difficult.

Hendrik Sharples: The C A is not cashing (unless partner made a pointless falsecard and declarer bid like an idiot), but since there are no useful pitches, I’ll…force declarer to ruff. [Now he cannot] ruff a spade to set up that suit [without] my H 9 becoming a trick.

Thijs Veugen: South [may] need one spade ruff. Assuming he is 5=5=2=1, he can’t get back to his hand without becoming short of trumps.

Gilles Korngut: Partner has to have S 9-x-x-x.

Barry Rigal: Might this disrupt the entries if declarer has S A-K-8-x-x H A-10-x-x-x D x-x C x? If I lead a trump, declarer can [make easily].

Bill Erwin: Tap declarer. If he has to ruff a spade, he won’t be able to get back to his hand without setting up my H 9.

Andrew de Sosa: Force declarer to ruff. This could result in transportation difficulties after ruffing a spade.

Nice try, Andrew, but I have to disqualify you. Relatives of Sammy are ineligible.

Craig Satersmoen: If declarer has to ruff a spade, he’s going to run out of entries to his hand.

Stu Goodgold: If declarer is 5=5=2=1, I need to tap him once and hope partner has a spade stopper. Then, if a spade is ruffed on the board, declarer won’t be able to return to his hand [to draw trumps].

Neil Morgenstern: Force declarer to ruff. If he needs to ruff a spade in dummy, how will he get back to hand to draw the last trump?

Jack Lacy: If declarer is S A-K-x-x-x H A-10-x-x-x D x-x C x, he is cold if I go passive. I need to lead the C A to remove his fifth heart prematurely.

Jack Rhatigan: Declarer might have to use a trump before he is ready. Also… one pitch will do very little good.

David Davies: It seems best to force declarer; unless both spades and hearts are solid, declarer will have trouble ruffing a spade and drawing trumps.

Marek Pontus: This [should] defeat the contract if declarer’s spades aren’t running. This promotes the C Q, but there is still one trick missing.

Comments for the H 3

Frances Hinden: Partner needs the S 9 and the H 10; otherwise I think it’s cold. Forcing declarer looks tempting, but he’ll just have 12 tricks on a crossruff.

John Reardon: The trouble with the C A is that South can cash two spades, two diamonds and a club while crossruffing and making seven trump tricks for his contract. I hope partner has H 10 and S 9-x-x-x.

Howard Abrams: If South holds (1) S A-K-9-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C 10, (2) S A-K-x-x-x H A-10-x-x-x D x-x C 10, (3) S A-K-x-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x C 10, or (4) S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D J-10 C 10, the contract cannot be defeated on best play and defense. So assume East holds the singleton H 10, S 9-x-x-x and D 10-x-x, making declarer’s hand no better than S A-K-8-7-6 H A-8-7-6-2 D J-9 C 10. Now a small heart, and only a small heart, will defeat the contract.

Hanchang Wang: Partner’s play at trick one indicates C J-7-5-4, so I bet declarer’s hand is something like S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C 10. If declarer has the S 9, we cannot beat the slam. If declarer has the H 10, we cannot beat it either (…if I lead the C A, he’ll [crossruff]). So I assume partner has the S 9 and H 10. Any lead but a trump is useless (declarer can ruff three clubs and one diamond with low trumps, then a high crossruff). …

Ed Davis: To defeat this contract, …partner must have the H 10 [and a spade stopper]. Declarer has two lines of play: (1) Set up the spades with one ruff if trumps are 3-2 or play for 3-3 spades if trumps are 4-1, or (2) ruff dummy’s five minor-suit losers in hand. Line 1 is about 56 percent. Once declarer knows that West cannot overruff declarer in clubs (from the C K lead) and that clubs are probably 4-4 (from East’s count signal, Line 2 requires mainly that West will not overruff declarer on the third round of diamonds. This is about 67 percent, so it is reasonable to assume that declarer, if allowed, will adopt Line 2. Line 1 fails due to the 4-1 trump split and 4-2 spade split. Line 2 succeeds unless a trump is led so a trump is the best lead at trick two. …

But there’s more! Order today, and Ed will throw in a Popiel Pocket Fisherman and my Pocket Slice-O-Matic.

Graham Osborne: Hoping partner has the H 10 and stopping a crossruff.

Rob Stevens: Partner needs S 9-x-x-x and the H 10 to beat this contract double-dummy. Single-dummy, it isn’t so easy. The C A will force South to ruff, then if [he draws two trumps] he will go down whether or not he holds the H 10. But if South plays to make the small trumps in his hand by ruffing, he will make succeed even when East holds the H 10. This isn’t an unlikely line, because South will almost certainly divine that clubs are 4-4 from the signaling at trick one, so it’s a lock provided three rounds of diamonds stand up.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Even though returning the S 10 is tempting, it seems the real choice is between a trump and the C A. I think the only real chance to defeat the contract is when partner has both the S 9 and the H 10 and I return a trump. The C A is a strong contender; but declarer, who knows the club distribution, will be able to make the slam on a dummy reversal, even when missing those two key cards in majors.

Neelotpal Sahai: To start with, partner’s major-suit holding should be S 9-x-x-x H 10 for defense to have any chance. Even then, if I don’t shift to trumps, declarer can crossruff to get eight heart tricks, two spades and two diamonds. …

Steven Bloom: Declarer is marked with something like S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C x. Partner will need to hold the S 9 to give us a chance, and it is tempting to continue with the C A to kill the spade suit. But South would simply crossruff. Indeed, a crossruff is looming. Declarer has four obvious side-suit winners and can take eight trumps, unless I lead a trump. This defense requires partner’s trump to be the 10 (or for declarer to have only four hearts), but any other defense offers no hope.

Douglas Dunn: If South is 5-5 in the majors, we have a chance if the suits are no better than S A-K-8-x-x H A-8-x-x-x; but only on a trump return. On [any other] return declarer can make all eight trumps separately.

Weidong Yang: Otherwise declarer can easily come up to 12 tricks by a crossruff… If partner has the H 10 [and a spade stopper], declarer will be in trouble.

Franco Baseggio: Declarer has S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D J-x C 10 or similar. If partner has the H 10 and S 9, then leading a trump breaks up a crossruff. A spade looks good enough, but declarer uses three dummy entries to take three low ruffs in hand, then leads S A-K. Ruff or not, declarer gets home.

Radu Mihai: To beat the slam, I need declarer to have S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C x. If I play anything but a small trump (say a diamond) he will win in dummy; club ruff; diamond to dummy; club ruff; spade to dummy; club ruff; S A-K [succeeding whether I ruff or not]. … So I’ll lead a trump and hope partner has the S 9 and H 10.

Manuel Paulo: I assume declarer’s hand is S A-K-8-x-x H A-8-7-6-2 D J-x C 10… or S A-K-8-x-x H A-10-x-x D J-10-x C 10, in which cases the lead of a low trump limits the impending crossruff to 11 tricks.

Anthony Golding: Cutting out crossruff and dummy-reversal options. I need partner to have the H 10 [and a spade stopper]. If not, the C A doesn’t work either, as declarer can ruff two more minor winners in hand and crossruff high (and with the C Q established, even make when he started with H A-10-x-x!).

Peter Nixon: South has to be at least 5-5 in the majors. Therefore, I have to hope partner has the H 10 so I can stop a crossruff for 12 tricks. Don’t see how I can beat it otherwise.

Harold Simon: If South is 5=5=2=1 without the S 9 and with or without the H 10, a straight crossruff will succeed.

Yanko Yankov: Preventing declarer from scoring all his trumps if he has S A-K-8-x-x H A-8-x-x-x D x-x C x.

Olivier La Spada: I have to find partner with the H 10. By leading trumps, declarer can’t make eight trump tricks (plus S A-K D A-K) for 12 tricks.

Toby Kenney: If partner holds S 9-x-x-x and the H 10, declarer will not be able to ruff his spades good and draw trumps, so his only hope will be a crossruff. A trump lead prevents this.

Richard Stein: There’s no way to prevail if South has the H 10 or S 9, so give them to East. Even then, the trump switch is needed because South threatens a crossruff…

Thomas Kniest: If I don’t lead a trump, declarer has 12 tricks on a careful crossruff. If partner has the H 10, he’s down after a trump lead.

Marvin French: Leaving declarer one trick short after a crossruff, which provides 12 tricks with any other lead. If he tries to set up his hand by ruffing a spade, then I need partner to hold the H 10.

Problem 3

MatchpointsS Q 10 9 6WestNorthEastSouth
E-W vulH 6YouDummyPartnerSammy
D J 10 9 7 6Pass1 S
C A 10 2Pass3 S1Pass4 NT
S 4 3TablePass5 DPass6 S
H 10 4 3 2PassPassPass
D A K Q 5 
C J 9 7 6 S South1. limit raise

1. WD K632

Next LeadAwardVotesPercent
C 91017728
H 49223
H 108173
C J610817
S 3521734
D A29715

From the first trick it is obvious that Sammy has a singleton diamond.* Therefore, you will need to win a trick in clubs, which means partner must have the C K or H K, probably both. It is also evident that dummy has four entries (C A, S Q and two ruffs), which allows Sammy to establish and enjoy the fifth diamond. (South almost certainly has S A-K.)

*Partner could have the singleton in theory, but that’s illogical. Further, if Sammy held three diamonds, there is no way he could get two discards on clubs (a blank king or doubleton K-Q gets only one discard) so the only way he might succeed would be with a hand like S A-K-x-x-x H A-K-Q-J-x D x-x-x C --, hardly possible after the Blackwood bid. Sammy swings hard, but not that hard.

This problem is from an actual deal at the Fort Lauderdale Bridge Club, although the slam was (sensibly) not bid:

MatchpointsS Q 10 9 6TrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W vulH 61. WD K632
D J 10 9 7 62. WS 3?1052
C A 10 23. ND 74S K5
S 4 3 TableS 54. SS 749H 5
H 10 4 3 2H K 9 8 7 55. ND 98S AQ
D A K Q 5D 8 4 36. SS 8H 2QC 4
C J 9 7C K 6 5 47. ND 10C 5S JA
S A K J 8 7 28. SC 37A6
H A Q Jcontinued below…
D 2
4 S SouthC Q 8 3

I was West and shifted to a trump at Trick 2, trying to beat a game not slam. Declarer won the obvious 11 tricks, but I noticed he could have won 12 by using dummy’s trump entries to establish the fifth diamond, then crossing to the C A to reach this ending:

S win 5 S 6TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 69. NS 6H 7C 8C 9
D J10. ND J?
C 10 2East is squeezed
S TableS
H 10 4 3H K 9 8 7
C J 9C K
North leadsC Q 8

Finally, the lead of the last trump and good diamond squeezes East for the rest. Whether declarer should play this way in four spades is moot, but it’s certainly the right play in six.

The squeeze can be broken up by a heart shift at trick two, and I wondered (with serious doubts) if I would have found it against a slam. (Partner also must cooperate by not playing the H K.) It goes against the grain of normal defensive strategy to lead dummy’s singleton, so this was a good candidate for a defensive problem.

As to which heart to lead, the H 4 is correct with an expert partner. Even if he can’t read it clearly, it would be obvious to duck looking at both kings; plus, you would have no reason whatever to lead a heart from the queen. Why not the H 10? Because it might give away the contract, say, if Sammy held S A-J-8-7-x H A-K-9-x-x D x C Q-x, but that would really be Steamin’ Sammy to bid that much.

Now that I’ve espoused the merits of the heart shift, I must remind myself that this is not an “at the table” forum. The actual deal has no bearing on the proper theoretical defense. The above South hand is comparatively rare (hearts must be precisely A-Q-J alone for the heart shift to be necessary). Further study shows that a club shift gains in many more layouts. Consider the following deal:

MatchpointsS Q 10 9 6TrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W vulH 61. WD K632
D J 10 9 7 62. WH 2?6JA
C A 10 23. SS A362
S 4 3 TableS 5 24. SS 7495
H 10 4 3 2H Q J 95. ND J4S 85
D A K Q 5D 8 4 36. SH K3C 29
C J 9 7C K 8 6 5 47. SH 54S 10Q
S A K J 8 78. ND 108S JQ
H A K 8 7 59. SH 710S QC 4
D 210. ND 7C 5S KA
6 S SouthC Q 311. SH 8C 7C 10C 6

If you lead a heart, declarer has just enough trumps to draw trumps and establish both red suits, using the C A as a final entry to reach the good diamond. Leading a club defeats the contract.

A club shift is also crucial if declarer has S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D 2 C Q-x, since the high-card entry must be removed from dummy to prevent declarer from ruffing three hearts and using the long diamond.

As to which club to lead, the nine is clearly right as it is safe against any layout. Leading the C J has many flaws, such as setting up partner for a squeeze, or blowing a trick outright if declarer has C K-x-x-x-x. The difference is so pronounced that I ranked the C J after both heart leads. I was hesitant even to rank the C J ahead of the S 3, but analyses showed it succeeded more often.

Of the remaining leads (S 3 and D A) I couldn’t come up with any layout where they gain over the top choices. An original trump lead would sometimes be effective, but leading one round doesn’t help. Compared to each other, the D A is much worse as it gives declarer the timing to pull off the club-heart squeeze with S A-K-J-x-x H A-Q-J-x D x C Q-x-x. Ouch.

Comments for the C 9

Frances Hinden: I need to play a club if South has S A-K-J-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x C Q-x; I need to stay passive if he has four or five clubs. The C 9 is the only card that does both.

John Reardon: Perhaps I must knock out the C A so the fifth diamond cannot be enjoyed when South has a hand like S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C Q-x. However, I must not butcher the club suit if partner has lost his voice and declarer has something like S A-K-J-x-x-x H A D x C K-8-x-x-x.

Marcus Chiloarnus: I might just hurt this contract by hitting it with a club.

Sivakumar Salem: Remove the entry.

Hanchang Wang: A club lead will set the contract if declarer’s hand is something like S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C Q-x (very probable from the bidding); it will destroy the dummy’s entry for the fifth D. The C 9 is [safe] against [all] club holdings. The C J would be a disaster if declarer has S A-K-x-x-x H A-x D x C K-8-6-3-2.

Ed Davis: [If] declarer holds S A-K-J-x-x H A-K-x-x-x D x C Q-x, my continuation makes a difference. A club switch will defeat the hand. Declarer will be able to set up both the long diamond and the long heart, but he won’t be able to draw trumps and cash them both.

Graham Osborne: Attacking dummy’s entry, and leading the nine to avoid costing a trick if declarer has K-8-x.

Jean-Marc Bihl: Very hard! I can see no solution if South has as little as S A-K-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C K-x-x; and if he has a heart less and a club more, I can play [anything] except the C J, which would allow South to set up a diamond and then squeeze partner in hearts and clubs. So the best chance is to hope for something like S A-K-J-x-x H A-K-x-x-x D x C Q-x, and now a club switch is required to avoid South enjoying both the fifth diamond and the fifth heart…

Rob Stevens: Most probably South holds S A-K-J-x-x H A-x D x C K-x-x-x-x (or perhaps 6-5), but he may be speeding with S A-K-J-x-x H A-K-x-x-x D x C Q-x. The C 9 should take care of both possibilities.

Neelotpal Sahai: Declarer is threatening to ruff out diamonds and pitch on the fifth diamond, and there seem to be enough entries to do so. But the only entry to cash the fifth diamond is in clubs, so it must be removed. … But which club? … If declarer has S A-K-J-x-x H A-J-x D x C K-8-x-x… leading the C J shifts the [burden] to East, and a club-heart squeeze operates after declarer sluffs a club on fifth diamond. The C 9 shift prevents this scenario.

Steven Bloom: South, to Blackwood to slam, should have the S A-K, H A and C K. That alone is not enough to force to slam, but anything extra means it is cold. Only something like S A-K-J-x-x H A-J-x D x C K-x-x-x gives us a shot, and that hand isn’t even worth a slam try. So, I need to hope South has misbid and is off the C K. A club shift is crucial if South has a hand like S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C Q-x. The nine is the correct technical card, and is also crucial if South has the S A-K-J-x-x H A-J-x D x C K-8-x-x hand — a low club blows the suit, while the jack lets South play for a dummy reversal, squeezing partner in the process.

Eric Leong: The only real hope to set the contract is that our side has a club trick. An immediate club shift may be necessary if declarer has something like S A-K-J-x-x H A-K-x-x-x D x C Q-6.

Jeff Goldsmith: Presumably, declarer has the C K and the other key cards. If he has six trumps, that means he has six spades, H A, long diamond, plus two clubs; so if he has three hearts, he’s at 12. If he’s 6=2=1=4, all that matters is the location of the C Q, which I can’t affect. … How about S A-K-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x C Q-x? Now a club shift will beat it. No one would bid as South did with that hand, but at least it’s a layout where slam isn’t cold.

Radu Mihai: It’s normal to assume declarer has at least five spades with A-K-J, H A and a singleton diamond. If he also has the C K, the contract does not depend on my lead at trick two. So assume this card in partner’s hand and declarer has only the C Q. [A heart] must be led if South has S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-Q-J D x C Q-x-x (to destroy a club-heart squeeze). A club must be led if South has S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C Q-x, or S A-K-J-x-x H A-J-x-x-x D x C Q-x (to remove an essential dummy entry before the last diamond becomes good). So, a club seems a little better than a heart. The C 9 is better than the C J because South could have S A-K-J-x-x H A-J D x C A-x-x-x-x.

Julian Wightwick: With S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C Q-x, declarer will need three trumps for ruffing hearts, and this will take away the entry to the long diamond. On the other hand, if declarer started with C K-8-x-x-x, the C 9 is the right card to force a trick in the suit.

Manuel Paulo: I would have led a trump [on the opening lead]. Now, I lead a club, trying to disrupt declarer’s communication. Then, the obvious choice is the C 9 because South may have the king and eight.

Pratap Nair: I need partner to have the C K to beat this hand. With dummy’s last diamond likely to be set up for a club discard, I have to attack the entry [early].

Leonard Helfgott: I couldn’t conceive of a construction where South has the C K that is beatable, so I assumed he made an unscientific Blackwood bid with something like S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C Q-x. Here, only an entry-removing club lead prevents establishment of the long diamond for a pitch after trumps have been drawn. …

Toby Kenney: A club lead cuts the only non-trump entry to dummy, so that with S A-K-J-x-x H A-K-x-x-x D x C Q-x, declarer does not have the entries to cash both his fifth diamond and his fifth heart.

Richard Stein: If South has the C K, the ball is out of reach. However, a club shift will kill the fifth diamond when South has S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C Q-x. That said, there’s no need to lay down the C J; I may need that crackerjack later.

William Bascom: Attack dummy’s late entry, playing partner for at least the C Q.

Roger Pewick: Diamonds look dangerous. Clubs look like the best shot for another trick, and the C A is an entry for setting up diamonds. Partner may not read the C 9, but I need [to trap the 10].

Gyorgy Ormay: My favorite lead. It doesn’t give a trick and cuts off entries for the long diamond, or for a squeeze.

Jojo Sarkar: This one really looks cold — I picked the weirdest card!

David Stern: Toughie. Playing a second diamond will likely make it easy for declarer to set up the fifth diamond if that is what he needs. Also, partner’s three looks like count from x-x-x. If partner has a singleton diamond, I can’t see where declarer can get rid of his other two diamonds. A club looks like the best option.

Comments for the H 4

N. Scott Cardell: On the bidding, declarer needs the H A, at least S A-K-x-x-x (probably A-K-J-x-x or six spades) and a singleton diamond (also, partner’s D 3 should be count in this situation). Beyond that, declarer needs some additional values in the rounded suits to justify his push to slam. If declarer has the C K-Q, both rounded kings, or the H A-K-Q, I have no hope. Even if declarer has only the H Q and C K, he should find the right line. If he has only five spades he certainly should have that much. … The critical case occurs when declarer bid optimistically with six spades and less values. … If his hand is something like S A-K-J-x-x-x H A-Q-J D x C Q-x-x, any lead except a heart lets declarer set up a long diamond and squeeze East in the rounded suits. Leading the H 10 gives up your fourth-round heart stopper and removes some losing options for declarer in some cases. … So I lead the H 4 [trusting partner to make the right play].

Charles Blair: If South has S A-J-x-x-x H A-x-x-x D x C K-8-x, a diamond or spade gives him a needed entry, and the C 9 would “isolate the menace.”

James Hudson: Declarer’s hand: S A-J-x-x-x H A-J-x-x D x C K-8-x. Talk about overbidding.

Charles and James bring out another case (one that never occurred to me) where a heart lead is necessary (curiously, the C J also works), though it boggles the mind to think that anyone would bid a slam with that. -RP

Problem 4

MatchpointsS K 9 6WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH J 10 9PartnerDummyYouSammy
D K J 5 4PassPass1 D
C K 10 3Pass2 NTPass6 D
TableS Q 10 8 5 4PassPassPass
Lead: H 6H A 5 3 2
D 3
6 D SouthC Q 9 4

1. WH 69AK

Next LeadAwardVotesPercent
C 4108513
C Q8183
H 2631549
S 1059415
D 346711
S 53599

Hmm. One diamond, six diamonds. Bang, zoom. What’s Sammy up to? With this kind of bidding, he’s probably looking for a fastball, so you better think twice before pitching him another heart. He surely has seven diamonds, and the failure to bid 4 C (Gerber) marks him with the missing aces.* These assumptions give Sammy 11 top tricks, which suggests you may be defending against a squeeze.

*In theory Sammy could have a black-suit void, but this is illogical from the bidding. If Sammy were void in clubs or spades, partner would have made a peep over 1 D at favorable vulnerability.

What about the heart situation? The fall of the king suggests Sammy has a singleton, which is consistent with a fourth-best lead from Q-8-7-6-4. It is conceivable that he has K-Q-4 (it is systemic to lead low from 8-7-6) or K-Q-8-7 (partner has a doubleton), but in these cases the contract will be unbeatable. In theory, partner might also have a singleton heart, but this would mean Sammy has concealed H K-Q-8-7-4 to bid a minor-suit slam at matchpoints — not impossible, but rather far-fetched.

Below is a typical layout based on the deductions so far:

MatchpointsS K 9 6TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S vulH J 10 91. WH 69AK
D K J 5 42. EH 2?D 10410
C K 10 33. SD A643
S J 3 2 TableS Q 10 8 5 44. SD 2H 7KH 3
H Q 8 7 6 4H A 5 3 25. ND JS 47H 8
D 6D 36. ND 5S 5QC 2
C J 8 7 2C Q 9 4continued below…
S A 7
D A Q 10 9 8 7 2
6 D SouthC A 6 5

Observe that I gave West both black jacks, else Sammy could succeed by a simple finesse. Suppose you return a heart, ruffed by Sammy. (Note that Sammy also can read the H 6 as fourth-best, so he knows West has the queen and abandons any idea of a ruffing heart finesse.) Then comes four rounds of trumps to reach this position:

D win 7 S K 9 6TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H J7. SD 9S 2C 3H 5
D8. SS 7!3K8
C K 10 39. NS 610AJ
S J 3 2 TableS Q 10 810. SD 8C 7H J?
H QH 5East is squeezed
C J 8 7C Q 9 4
S A 7
D 9 8
South leadsC A 6 5

On the next trump (pitching a club from dummy) West must give up one of his black-suit stoppers, and Sammy has an answer to each. If West pitches a club, Sammy wins the C K and C A (optionally the S A, too), then the last trump inflicts a double squeeze with spades as the common suit. If West pitches a spade, Sammy wins the S K and S A, then leads the last trump for a double squeeze with clubs as the common suit. Heads Sammy wins; tails you lose.

Suppose instead that you lead a spade at trick two (the 10 of course to preserve partner’s jack). Sammy wins the S A and leads trumps to reach this ending:

D win 7 S K 9TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H J 107. SD 9S 3C 3S 5
D8. SS 7!JK8
C K 10 39. NH 105D 78
S J 3 TableS Q 8 510. SD 8C 7H J?
H Q 8H 5East is squeezed
C J 8 7C Q 9 4
S 7
D 9 8 7
South leadsC A 6 5

On the next trump lead, West must commit. He can’t throw a heart (else the queen ruffs out), and a double squeeze follows no matter which black suit he abandons. The only difference between this and the first ending is that if West abandons spades, Sammy’s entry back to hand (after winning the S K) is a heart ruff instead of the S A.

Note that in both of the previous endings a key ingredient was the twin entry in clubs. Without this, the squeeze cannot be executed when West abandons spades, and therein lies the solution. Forget the fastball. You must go with a slider and return a club. It makes no difference whether Sammy wins the ace or “slides” it to the king, capturing the jack; there is no path to success.

No doubt many people were concerned that a club lead might “guess the suit” for Sammy if he held the C J. True enough, but in that event you weren’t going to beat the slam anyway. Sammy would still have the same squeeze options; but even if he opted for a club finesse, it would be normal to play you for the C Q based on restricted choice* and other factors, such as West probably having longer hearts.

*It is accepted practice to make attacking leads against slams, especially on auctions like this. Declarer knows that West has the H Q (Rule of 11) so he can deduce that if West held the C Q as well, he might have led a club. Hence, by restricted choice, the C Q is more likely to be with East.

The location of the club eight is also significant. If Sammy held C A-8-5, he could succeed by capturing partner’s jack; then the club stopper is isolated to you, and a double squeeze ensues. On a psychological plane, leading the C Q might prevent this, since Sammy may still opt for the squeeze — at least it’s hard to imagine he would win the C A and take a club finesse. For this reason I considered giving the top award to the C Q; but then, if you can make such a high-class play, so can Sammy. He knows you must lead a club honor from Q-J, Q-9 or J-9 to break up the squeeze so, based on restricted choice, the club finesse becomes the favorite — or maybe I’ve seen too many “Spy vs. Spy” cartoons in Mad Magazine.

The reason for leading clubs instead of spades is because of your lengths in the suits. If Sammy held S A-x-x C A-x, he would already have an established double squeeze (only you could guard spades) so the situation would be hopeless. If you had one less spade (i.e., so partner could guard spades if Sammy had three), you would have to guess which suit Sammy held three cards in; then spades would be a better guess because you don’t have to worry about the eight-spot.

The remaining leads (S 10, S 5, H 2, D 3) are effectively the same, as Sammy should always succeed with proper play. The edge goes to the H 2 on the miracle chance that partner led a singleton heart, and the others are ranked by the voting.

Comments for the C 4

Frances Hinden: In the circles I usually play, it’s more important not to give declarer the club guess than to break up the compound squeeze when he is 2=1=7=3. However, South is such a good player I’m sure he’d make the contract otherwise.

John Reardon: Trying to break up [a compound squeeze]. [Ending described.] I need partner to have the C J and C 8.

Marcus Chiloarnus: The green-jacketed Monkey has taught me to protect my partner from all known squeezes.

Good to know… But who will protect us from you?

Howard Abrams: If declarer holds S A-7 H K D A-Q-10-9-8-7-6 C A-7-6, the C 4 return will defeat the contract. Essentially, declarer will not be able to set up a workable squeeze position, which could be done on any other return. …

Roger Morton: If I assume [partner has] both black jacks, I can’t stop a double squeeze when South has three spades and two clubs. With two clubs and three spades, however, I can mess up the entries.

Hanchang Wang: Partner’s lead looks like it’s from H Q-8-7-6-4, not from H 8-7-6-4; so declarer holds a singleton H K. From the bidding, declarer has 7+ good diamonds, S A and C A (if he is missing a black ace and void instead, the slam is either unbeatable or unmakable). If he has eight diamonds, we can’t set the slam, so [assume seven]. If declarer holds three spades and two clubs, we cannot beat it because of a Type R double squeeze. If he holds two spades and three clubs, I need to lead a club; otherwise, [squeeze mechanics described].

Ed Davis: Declarer should have something like S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x. If I exit in a red suit, declarer can reach an end position of S K-x-x H J D -- C K-x opposite S A-x H -- D x C A-x-x. When West unguards a black suit, declarer cashes the two tops in that suit ending in hand and leads the last diamond for a double squeeze. If I shift to a spade, [ending described]. Only a club at trick two will break up the squeeze.

N. Scott Cardell: … Declarer should have seven diamonds to the A-Q-10… and surely both black aces for his jump to slam. … Partner has apparently led fourth-highest from the H Q, so the H K can hardly be a falsecard. Thus, declarer must be at least as good as (1) S A-x H K D A-Q-10-x-x-x-x C A-x-x or (2) S A-x-x H K D A-Q-10-x-x-x-x C A-x. With Hand 2, I have the only spade guard and partner has the only heart guard, so the double squeeze will roll. With Hand 1, there is a compound squeeze. [Endings described.] If partner’s clubs are as good as J-8-x-x, a club return breaks up the squeeze. Because the C Q sets up a finesse against partner’s C J, the only return to guarantee beating the contract when it can be beaten is the C 4.

Jean-Marc Bihl: Declarer with bad diamonds can easily have seven of them and of course the two black aces. Suddenly this becomes another squeeze-breaking exercise. If South has three spades and two clubs, there is no chance. So I assume he has three clubs and two spades; and even then, only a club switch works. I need partner to have C 8, and he will have to hang on to it and discard spades on the run of the diamonds. …

Rob Stevens: Destroys the looming compound squeeze.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: South seems to have stiff H K and seven diamonds. If he has three spades and two clubs, he will be able to bring home the slam by executing a double squeeze. So I will play him for having two spades and three clubs. I need partner to have C J-8 (and, of course, to guard clubs not spades) and, ideally, the S J. Returning a club will break communication; any other return will allow the compound squeeze to succeed.

Steven Bloom: The big danger here is if South has seven diamonds. If he has S A-x-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x, the hand is cold on a double squeeze. Let’s give him S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x. On passive defense, the hand will make on a compound squeeze. A spade shift is better for the defense, but declarer will play [five] rounds of trumps… [ending described]. A club shift breaks this up, as partner can release spades. Partner will need the C J-8, but nothing else is better.

Gareth Birdsall: If declarer has S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-7-x, then a club return is needed to stop a compound squeeze.

Tim Bolshaw: If declarer has S A-x-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x, he can always succeed with a double squeeze (if he reads the position). If he has S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x, a compound squeeze threatens, but a club return will break it up if partner has C J-8-x-x.

Franco Baseggio: Declarer has S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-7-x. A compound [squeeze] is brewing unless I attack the club position.

Julian Wightwick: With S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x, declarer will play a compound squeeze, pitching a club on the sixth diamond and squeezing partner out of a black stopper; then cashing the K-A of the suit partner releases before cashing the last trump. Declarer needs C A-K for this squeeze, so I need to switch to a club now. If declarer is 3=1=7=2 instead, he makes on a double squeeze, and there’s nothing I can do about it. If declarer is 6-4 in the minors, and on a club guess for the contract, then too bad; but with that hand he might have tried for 6 C.

Manuel Paulo: I assume declarer’s hand is S A-x H K D A-Q-10-x-x-x-x C A-7-x or alike (partner having the S J, C J and C 8), in which case the lead of a low club destroys the impending compound squeeze.

Jonathan Jacobs: Playing partner for the C 8!

Erkki Malkamaki: This kills the compound squeeze if South is S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x.

John Torrey: I can’t beat it if South has S A-x-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x; no matter what I lead now, South has a double squeeze. [Ending described]. So I have to defend S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x. Clubs is the potential double menace, and leading them breaks up the position. [Ending described].

Mario Zeljko: [If] declarer has S A-x H K D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x, he can always make the slam [on a squeeze] if I don’t return a club.

Mike Kerr: Gotta break up the [compound] squeeze; play partner for C J and C 8.

Problem 5

MatchpointsS 3WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH 9 6 4 2PartnerDummyYouSammy
D A 10 8 3 21 H
C K 8 42 S3 H4 S5 C
TableS A 9 5 2Pass5 DPass5 H
Lead: S JH 10 3Pass6 HAll Pass
D J 9 7 4
6 H SouthC Q 9 7

1. WS J3AQ

Next LeadAwardVotesPercent
S 21016025
H 3723036
C 967812
C Q5315
D 4310717
C 71325

The key to solving this problem is to read the spade layout. It may seem that Sammy has a blank queen, but this is implausible on two accounts. Would partner really bid only 2 S with K-J-10 seventh? Nonvulnerable, that would be wimpy, to say the least. Also, the auction strongly suggests that South lacks spade control; note the 5 H bid after control was shown in each minor suit. Indeed, Sammy was trying the old fake bunt routine; his S Q was a decoy on a layout like this:

MatchpointsS 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None vulH 9 6 4 21. WS J3AQ
D A 10 8 3 22. EH 3?AJ2
C K 8 43. SH KS 4410
S K J 10 8 6 4 TableS A 9 5 24. SD K524
H JH 10 35. SS 76H 62
D Q 6 5D J 9 7 46. ND A7C 26
C J 6 5C Q 9 77. ND 39H 5Q
S Q 78. SH 7S 89S 5
H A K Q 8 7 59. ND 8JH 8S 10
D KDeclarer succeeds
6 H SouthC A 10 3 2

If you shift to a trump (or either minor suit), Sammy will be able to establish and enjoy the fifth diamond and bring home the slam. Instead you must return a spade to force dummy and remove a vital entry. After this, Sammy must fail. Note that if Sammy uses the remaining heart entry to ruff a diamond and runs trumps, West can guard clubs to foil any squeeze.

Of the other choices, leading a trump or the C 9 (a surrounding play) are neutral and about the same. I gave the edge to the H 3, mainly because of the voting. One could also say that a club might solve Sammy’s guess if he has a two-way finesse, but in light of the bidding, Sammy would surely play you for the queen anyway. Leading the C Q is slightly worse than the nine because it offers Sammy a chance to succeed with S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x D K C A-10-x-x-x — and he just might guess it, figuring you would never lead a club from Q-J-x-(x).

The remaining leads (D 4 and C 7) are inferior since they may lose a trick outright. Imagine having to explain to partner how we lost our diamond trick when he held K-x. Nonetheless, I must give some merit to the D 4 on the chance that partner is void. Slim, yes, but South could have S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x D K-Q-x-x C A-J, where the diamond loser goes away after he is obliged to take the club finesse. I couldn’t see any redeeming feature for the C 7, so it gets the basement.

Comments for the S 2

Frances Hinden: South bid like a man without spade control, and my partners don’t overcall 2 S at love all with seven to the K-J-10. Maybe declarer is 2=6=1=4, and I can take out an entry [to dummy] prematurely.

John Reardon: This may stop South from establishing the fifth diamond as his 12th trick. The spade [lead] takes away an entry to North before South can unblock the diamonds when his hand is something like S Q-x H A-K-Q-8-7-5 D K C A-10-x-x.

Marcus Chiloarnus: Luckily, I know that South is the green-jacketed Monkey, who always falsecards.

Howard Abrams: If declarer holds S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D Q C A-10-6, only a spade return will defeat the contract. This takes out an entry to dummy before declarer can set up dummy’s long diamond for a club discard. Given the bidding, this is a very reasonable hand for declarer, as the 5 H bid would seem to deny second-round spade control… Give declarer credit for a thoughtful falsecard to try to…talk you out of a spade return. The spade return also works if declarer holds S K-Q H A-K-Q-J-8 D K-Q-6-5 C A-10 (only a club gives the contract) or S Q-8 H A-K-Q-x-x-x D Q-x C A-10-6 (only a diamond gives the contract). …

Roger Morton: On the bidding, South has a doubleton spade. South might also have a singleton diamond. I can remove an entry [to dummy] prematurely to stop South enjoying the fifth diamond.

Hanchang Wang: A diamond lead is out of question; only good if partner is void, but then the opening lead would be a low spade, not the jack. The H 3 lead is dangerous; if declarer holds S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-8-7-5 D -- C A-x-x-x, it will give an extra entry to dummy to set up the fifth diamond. … The S 2 is in order; it’s the only lead to set the slam if declarer holds something like S Q-x H A-K-x-x-x-x-x D x C A-x-x, since it destroys the extra entry to dummy to set up the fifth diamond. Any danger in the S 2? Yes, if declarer holds S K-Q H A-K-x-x-x-x-x D K-Q-x C x, or S Q H A-K-x-x-x-x D Q-x C A-J-x-x; but according to the bidding it’s unlikely partner has the C A, and I trust partner to have six spades.

Ed Davis: Use up the dummy’s spade-ruff entry before declarer gets the diamonds going. Declarer holds S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x D K C A-x-x-x, or S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D x C A-x-x.

Graham Osborne: Hoping declarer has falsecarded at trick one, and making him use one of his entries to dummy before he needs it.

N. Scott Cardell: It is almost certain that declarer has a second spade along with long, strong hearts and the C A, three or four clubs and short diamonds. Partner would surely have bid 3 S rather than 2 S with seven spades to the K-J-10 nonvulnerable at matchpoints. South’s 5 H bid suggested solid hearts and doubt about spades… and North’s raise to 6 H tends to confirm [this]… From the opening lead you knew that declarer had the S Q, and declarer knew that you knew, so the falsecard was mandatory. To make this, declarer will probably have to [establish the long] diamond. If I don’t return a spade now, a spade ruff may be a critical entry… Typical hands for declarer are S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-x-x-x, or S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D x C A-x-x.

Jean-Marc Bihl: Declarer may well have a 2=6=1=4 hand; for instance, S Q-4 H A-K-Q-8-7-5 D K C A-10-5-2. Now declarer seems to have the three needed entries to set up and win the fifth diamond; but just a minute: yes, lead a spade and one of the entries is dead before it can being used. Bye-bye slam!

Rob Stevens: Take out a dummy entry before South can unblock the singleton D K.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: From the auction it is very unlikely that South’s S Q is stiff. I will play South for holding S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-x-x-x. A spade return removes a necessary entry for getting the fifth diamond good later on…

Steven Bloom: … I attack dummy’s late entry. This will be crucial in some positions; for instance, if South has S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x D K C A-x-x-x, he can set up dummy’s diamonds to discard two clubs, unless I play a spade now.

Douglas Dunn: Sounds like declarer has S Q-x. The spade return takes out an entry, which may be needed to set up the diamonds.

Eric Leong: Declarer must have a doubleton spade, as partner would probably not make a single-jump overcall with seven spades, and declarer would have used Blackwood [with a singleton]. Declarer’s main source of tricks to avoid a club loser is the diamond suit. A spade return is necessary to use up dummy’s entry prematurely if declarer has something like S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D Q C A-x-x.

Kieran Dyke: If declarer has a slow diamond loser, then he’s down (unless I give away a trick). A slow club loser is a bigger concern. If he has S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D x C A-x-x, then the diamonds ruff good for a pitch unless I attack dummy’s spade-ruff entry now. Luckily, my partner wouldn’t have K-J-10-x-x-x-x for a mere 2 S bid at nil [vulnerability], but he might have S J-10-x-x-x-x H -- D K-Q-x C J-x-x-x.

Gareth Birdsall: Supposing declarer has S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D x C A-x-x, a spade return will prevent him establishing dummy’s fifth diamond.

Sandy Barnes: Partner needs the C J to beat this, so I’ll take away a trump entry to dummy early before declarer can use it for the diamond suit.

Jeff Goldsmith: Blow up a dummy entry. The bidding says declarer doesn’t have a spade control, so he’s falsecarding… I’m guessing he has S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D x C A-x-x. Only on a spade return will he be unable to ruff out the diamonds. Of course, then he’ll hold the C J and take a finesse and claim. As it is, partner made a quirky jump overcall with a 10-count.

Paulinho Brum: [Declarer may have] S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-8-7 D K C A-x-x-x.

Bob Boudreau: Make declarer commit [to his] spade option before he can use the ruff as an entry to set up the long diamond.

Franco Baseggio: Attacks a key entry for setting up diamonds if declarer has something like S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-10-x-x.

Radu Mihai: In spite of the deceptive play, South has for sure S Q-x (West would have said 3 S with K-J-10-x-x-x-x). If declarer has a diamond loser, it won’t disappear (except if I play a diamond and South has Q-x)… The interesting situation is when…declarer has to make one or two club discards on diamonds. Playing a spade [removes] a dummy entry prematurely, and it’s the winning lead if South has S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D x C A-x-x, or S Q-x H A-K-J-x-x-x D K C A-x-x-x.

Julian Wightwick: The bidding (partner’s and declarer’s) suggests the S Q is a falsecard. With S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x D K C A-x-x-x, declarer will need the spade ruff later to set up the long diamond, so make him take it now.

Daniel Korbel: If declarer has a stiff D K, he probably wants to use his spade ruff as an early entry to get diamonds going. Let’s force him to use it before he’s ready.

David Grainger: If declarer has S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-10-x-x, this will remove a vital entry from dummy that will be needed to get back to the fifth diamond after it has been established.

Thomas Peters: Preventing declarer from using the fifth diamond [if he has] S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x D K C A-x-x-x.

Anthony Golding: Deprive declarer of a late ruffing entry.

Len Vishnevsky: If declarer has a stiff D K and S Q-x, a spade makes him ruff now… and leaves him an entry short for enjoying the long diamond.

Yanko Yankov: Breaking the entry to dummy early in case declarer has S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-x-x-x.

Steve White: [This is] safe (partner would not bid 2 S on K-J-10-x-x-x-x) and may force declarer to use a dummy entry prematurely.

Olivier La Spada: Best if South has S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-x-x-x, costing an essential entry in dummy.

Mark Friedlander: To knock out dummy’s entry prematurely when declarer holds S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x-x D K C A-x-x.

Toby Kenney: Removes an entry to dummy, which will be necessary if declarer holds S Q-x H A-K-Q-J-x-x D K C A-x-x-x.

Marcos Paiva: Partner has the H K singleton! Santa Claus exists!

James Hudson: To make declarer use up an entry to dummy. His hand: S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-x-x-x.

Richard Stein: This delicately extracts a dummy entry for setting up diamonds when South is 2=6=1=4 with the D K, or 2=7=1=3 without it. Partner should have only six spades, so it is also safe.

Rob Zijlstra: The spade ruff in dummy appears to be the key entry to utilize the diamonds. Let’s get rid of it!

Bill Powell: Make declarer ruff his second spade now (S Q-x H A-K-Q-x-x-x D K C A-10-x-x).

Andrew de Sosa: Attack one of dummy’s entries to the long diamonds.

Problem 6

MatchpointsS A J 3WestNorthEastSouth
Both vulH K 10 2PartnerDummyYouSammy
D 8 6 5 3PassPass1 S
C K 5 4Pass3 SPass4 NT
TableS 8 5 4Pass5 DDbl6 S
Lead: D JH J 9 7 4PassPassPass
D A K 7 2
6 S SouthC 10 3

1. WD J3KQ

Next LeadAwardVotesPercent
S 51012720
C 1076610
C 36132
H 45406
D 2416826
D A222435

Can Sammy have another diamond? Hardly. Only a Little Leaguer would use Blackwood without diamond control then bid slam in the teeth of your double. This is the Big Leagues, and Sammy has another scheme in mind: hit and run. If you lead another diamond, any diamond, Sammy will hit it and run home with his slam. Consider this typical layout:

MatchpointsS A J 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both vulH K 10 21. WD J3KQ
D 8 6 5 32. ED 2?S 1045
C K 5 43. SS K234
S 6 2 TableS 8 5 44. SS 76A5
H 6 5 3H J 9 7 45. ND 67S 99
D J 10 9 4D A K 7 26. SC 92K3
C J 7 6 2C 10 37. ND 8AS Q10
S K Q 10 9 78. SH 83K4
H A Q 89. NS J8C 8H 5
D QDeclarer succeeds
6 S SouthC A Q 9 8

Sammy has 11 top tricks, and the obvious candidate for 12 is the long club. Alas, the suit doesn’t break, and the fourth club cannot be ruffed. Squeeze chances are also doomed as long as you protect diamonds and partner protects clubs. But wait! Sammy is only a wild pitch away from a dummy reversal. With an assist from you, he will be able to ruff all the diamonds and return to dummy to draw the last trump. Don’t help him!

Not only must you resist a diamond lead, but there are other dangers. Leading a heart might lose a trick (if Sammy has four hearts) or provide an extra entry to dummy, as in the example deal. Leading a club might expose partner’s holding to a finesse. Even a trump lead bears a risk, as partner might hold Q-x. Nonetheless, the last possibility is negligible on the bidding; Sammy would be unlikely to launch into Blackwood with only S K-10-9-x-x. Therefore, you should return a trump. Also note that if Sammy leads diamonds at any point, you must not play your ace, else partner will be ripe for a squeeze.

The other choices are much inferior. A club lead is second best since partner may have the spot cards to sustain it, and the C 10 is better than the three because declarer might not take it at face value. (He may suspect you have J-10 and are trying to swindle him into finessing against partner.) A heart lead is next in line.

A diamond continuation is worst; but at least a low diamond has the benefit in not setting up partner for a squeeze. The only case for the D A would be against Salivatin’ Sammy; but then, if it cashes, you may find out later you need rabies shots.

Comments for the S 5

Frances Hinden: Either club could give a trick; the D A allows partner to be squeezed in the minors; other red cards may allow a dummy reversal. A spade is the only lead to give nothing.

John Reardon: I hope South has something like S K-Q-10-7-2 H A-Q-8 D Q C A-Q-9-8. There is a danger of giving away a trick or allowing a dummy reversal. I am going to look extremely foolish if South actually has S K-10-9-7-2 H A-Q D Q-4 C A-Q-J-8.

Marcus Chiloarnus: I once won a soup bowl by leading a spade to stop a dummy reversal in a similar competition.

Sivakumar Salem: To avoid [giving] declarer an extra entry [for] a dummy reversal. Of course, declarer must have four clubs, not four hearts (headed by A-Q) because then he can make by playing two rounds of trumps and playing hearts.

Howard Abrams: If declarer holds S K-Q-10-9-7 H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8, only a spade return can defeat the contract. If I return a diamond, declarer can reverse the dummy. Ditto with a heart, as it gives declarer an extra non-trump entry to dummy. A club return gives declarer a fourth club trick. … On other layouts I constructed, such as S K-Q-10-9-7-6 H A-8 D Q C A-Q-9-8, several returns will defeat the contract, including a spade.

Roger Morton: Don’t help South reverse the dummy with a diamond or a heart, and don’t bust open the club suit in case South has A-J-9.

Ed Davis: Shift to a trump to stop a dummy reversal, and also avoid giving away a trick in hearts or clubs (or an extra dummy entry in hearts). Declarer holds something like S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8.

Graham Osborne: Aiming to prevent a dummy reversal. Declarer can’t ruff everything and draw all the trumps conveniently.

N. Scott Cardell: Again declarer is facing an entry problem, and I must not help him. Declarer’s slam drive missing the S A-J suggests great high-card strength, along with a singleton diamond. Probably South has the S K-Q, both rounded aces, and the rounded queens as well. This gives him 11 tricks in high cards, and all he needs to do is to gain one more trick by a dummy reversal, [but he is an entry short]. A diamond return lets him save an entry, and a heart return will give him two heart entries to the board, so they are out. A club lead might work, but it will pickle the club suit if declarer happens to have C A-Q-9-8 (or even A-J-9-8). A trump is the only return that guarantees 6 S will die a natural death when it can be defeated.

Jean-Marc Bihl: Can I beat South if he has some 5-4-3-1 hand with good spades and A-Q in hearts and clubs? Well, if he has four hearts, I cannot stop a heart ruff in dummy; so I’ll play him for four clubs, say, S K-Q-10-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-x. Now if I play a diamond (or a heart that gives an extra entry in dummy), I will suffer a dummy reversal… A club might do, but is dangerous if South has the 9-8. A spade is perfect to kill that play without risking to give the whole club suit.

Rob Stevens: I must not allow dummy enough entries for the dummy reversal. Therefore, diamonds and hearts are out. I am hoping [partner] will make a slow club trick, so leading clubs is risky.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: I will play South for S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8 (or A-J-9-8). Returning a diamond or a heart will present declarer with an additional entry to complete a dummy reversal. A club return would give away a trick. A trump return seems not to give up any chance to defeat the slam.

Steven Bloom: If South has a key loser somewhere, my defense does not matter. I am worried about South holding something like S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-x-x. A diamond or heart back lets him make this hand on a dummy reversal. A club might be okay but picks up the suit if South has the 9-8. A trump shift might cost the contract when South has something like S K-10-9-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-J-x, but the C 10 could pick up partner’s C Q just as easily. So I go with a trump.

Douglas Dunn: A diamond return allows South to reverse the dummy when he has S K-Q-x-x-x. The C 10 only loses when [South’s] clubs are as good as A-J-9-8 or A-Q-9-8; but why take the risk? …

Eric Leong: A diamond continuation would allow declarer to make six spades on a dummy reversal [if he] has S K-Q-10-9-x H A-x-x D Q C A-Q-J-x. A spade is the safest return that doesn’t give up a potential setting trick in either hearts or clubs.

Kieran Dyke: A second diamond is not standing up, and trying to cash it in my hand isolates the menace. It might also assist with a dummy reversal. A heart might lose a trick leading into A-Q-x-x (and/or a dummy entry for the dummy reversal). A club might pickle partner’s queen. A trump return looks pretty clear.

Gareth Birdsall: I don’t want to help reverse dummy.

Sandy Barnes: Try to stop a dummy reversal or squeeze.

Jeff Goldsmith: A heart or a club could give away the hand on normal layouts, so those are out. The D K could easily [set up] partner [for a] squeeze in the minors. A low diamond could create a dummy reversal if declarer has S K-Q-x-x-x H A-x-x D Q C A-Q-J-x. The only play that can’t give away anything on a normal layout is a trump. So be it.

Paulinho Brum: Breaking the dummy reversal against S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8. Declarer can win with S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x-x D Q C A-Q-x by ruffing a heart in dummy.

Tim Bolshaw: A likely holding for declarer is S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D x C A-Q-x-x. A diamond return then allows a dummy reversal. The safest return is a trump.

Bob Boudreau: Don’t help declarer reverse dummy with a diamond return.

Weidong Yang: If South’s hand is 5=3=1=4 with H A-Q and C A-Q, a diamond return will help declarer establish dummy’s hand.

Franco Baseggio: Declarer has S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8. Any other lead allows a dummy reversal or blows up clubs. I hope I didn’t just blow up partner’s S Q.

Radu Mihai: No squeeze will be possible; I can keep hearts, partner clubs, and both of us diamonds (and declarer has no communication in diamonds). I have to play a spade, because this can be the only play not helping declarer to make a dummy reversal or to avoid a club loser if his cards are S K-Q-10-9-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8.

Daniel Korbel: Why assist declarer in a dummy reversal? A trump is the safest return. I must hang on to the D A at all costs.

Manuel Paulo: I assume declarer’s hand is S K-Q-10-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8 or alike (partner having the C J), in which case the lead of a trump destroys the impending dummy reversal.

Dale Freeman: Trying to stop a dummy reversal. Oops if partner has S Q-x, [but that’s a] long shot.

David Grainger: If declarer has S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8, a red-suit return will allow a dummy reversal, while a club will pick up the suit. A trump will destroy the timing for a dummy reversal and leave declarer a trick short.

Erkki Malkamaki: To prevent entries for a dummy reversal if South has S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8. [If I lead] the D A, partner will be squeezed; a club clears the suit; and a heart gives enough entries for the dummy reversal.

Al Hollander: Interesting philosophical question: In a cash-out situation, should partner make the normal top-of-sequence lead, or a card that attempts to show length? Either way, let’s assume the D Q is an honest card. … A diamond continuation may help declarer [complete] a dummy reversal. … I can’t envision the whole hand at this point, but a spade seems to take away at least one option [from] declarer without directly helping in either round suit. …

Thomas Peters: Safest, as it avoids [leading a] diamond: S K-Q-10-9-x H A-x-x D Q C A-Q-J-x (dummy reversal); or a club: S K-Q-10-9-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-J-9; or a heart (or diamond): S K-Q-10-9-x H A-Q-x-x D Q C A-Q-x. Declarer can still make the last hand by drawing two trumps and ruffing a heart, but he has valid losing options.

Len Vishnevsky: A diamond may let declarer reverse the dummy; a heart might blow a trick; a [club] might pickle partner’s J-x-x-x or Q-x-x-x.

Peter Nixon: If South has S K-Q-9-7-6 H A-Q-6 D Q C A-J-9-8, I must return a trump; [else] declarer can…effect a dummy reversal [or win four club tricks].

Leonard Helfgott: If South has S K-Q-10-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-x-x, he can execute a dummy reversal…on either a diamond or heart return, which gives him the extra entry. A club ruins this but runs a slight risk. A spade should always succeed, no matter where he chooses to win it.

Harold Simon: Trying to thwart a dummy reversal.

John Torrey: A dummy reversal is possible with S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x-x D Q C A-Q-x, or S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8. … A diamond or heart loses to both hands; a club loses only to the second hand… A spade covers all the bases — like Sammy!

Steve White: Safe; not helping a dummy reversal if declarer has S K-Q-10-x-x H A-x-x D x C A-Q-J-x.

Olivier La Spada: Best if South has either S K-Q-x-x-x-x H A-Q-x-x D Q C A-x, or S K-Q-x-x-x-x H A-x D Q C A-Q-x-x.

Mark Friedlander: To avoid assisting in a dummy reversal if declarer has S K-Q-x-x-x H A-x-x D Q C A-Q-J-x.

Charles Blair: I’m worried about a dummy reversal if South is 5=3=1=4 (with 5=4=1=3 he can draw two trumps and ruff the fourth heart). Should I worry about partner having the trump queen? That would mean South bid slam opposite a passed hand with a known diamond loser and potential losers in the other three suits. The C 10 would probably succeed if South has C A-Q-9-8; however, would partner know not to cover if South has C A-J-9-8?

Harvey Jaffe: … Declarer is marked with all the top cards and probably has the rounded queens as well. A club shift could pickle partner’s jack if declarer has A-Q-9-8; a diamond or heart [gives declarer] a dummy reversal. A spade shift denies dummy the fourth entry needed to ruff three diamonds and return to pull the last trump. If declarer is 5=3=1=4, he will go down assuming partner has the C J. If declarer is 5=4=1=3, he will have to guess [how to play].

Marcos Paiva: Same bidding, same [suit] lead as Problem 3. One day I’ll get 10. :)

James Hudson: Trying to thwart a dummy reversal. Declarer’s hand: S K-Q-x-x-x H A-Q-x D Q C A-Q-9-8.

Rainer Herrmann: Otherwise, a dummy reversal could be declarer’s 12th trick.

Petter Bengtsson: A heart (when South has A-Q-x) or a diamond might help South reverse the dummy. A club is not good if South has A-J-9-8 or A-Q-9-8.

Gerald Cohen: Worried about a dummy reversal and other things. Other suits seem very dangerous.

Rich Dorfman: Break up the dummy reversal.

Barry Rigal: Worried about some dummy reversal (plus squeeze) issues. Trumps are never right in these positions, are they?

Andrew de Sosa: Make it more difficult for declarer to pull off a dummy reversal.

George Klemic: … A low diamond [seems] safe (leading the D A I’m sure leads to a perverse position where dummy’s D 8 squeezes West), but declarer may turn the hand into a dummy reversal, ruffing three diamonds. The trump lead disrupts the timing.

Neil Morgenstern: Maybe declarer is planning to reverse the dummy, and I don’t want to help him by giving him a diamond ruff to start. This assumes he has 5-4-3-1 distribution (or possibly 6-4-2-1) with a singleton diamond and his four-card suit could be either hearts or clubs (with partner guarding the fourth round). [Hopefully] it’s clubs, where he can’t succeed by drawing two rounds of trumps.

Final Notes

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

Comments are selected only from those above average (top 291 in this edition), and for each problem I only use comments that support the correct solution (or very close seconds as on Problems 1 and 3). While this might be construed as a biased presentation, I feel it’s the best way because it ensures sound content and avoids potential embarrassment in publishing comments that are flawed. On this basis, I included about 65 percent of the eligible comments. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input (I read them all).

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.

Now it’s time for the seventh-inning stretch, and we have our own Harry Caray for a sing-a-long:

Stu Goodgold: To the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”…

Let me root, root, root for the right lead.
If you guess wrong, it’s their slam!
For it’s 10, 11, 12 tricks and out
At the old bridge game.

Peter Nixon: This set of problems brings back my worst Little League nightmares. I want to be the catcher, but half the time you plant me in right field — just like my coaches.

Gerald Cohen: Seems like you ought to acknowledge the Snead family. After all, Samuel Jackson Snead is the one true Slammin’ Sammy.

No slight was intended, but you make a good point, especially considering the passing of the golfing legend in May of this year. Snead was certainly the original, though in recent times the moniker is more often associated with Sosa. Out of curiosity I did a Google search pairing “Slammin’ Sammy” with each name, and the count was Sosa 1340, Snead 335.

Neelotpal Sahai: I wonder how much Sammy would score in your bidding polls if he bid like he did on these problems.

Analyses 7V96 MainChallengeScoresTop Slammin’ Sammy Goes Deep

Acknowledgments to Sammy Sosa, the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball.
© 2002 Richard Pavlicek