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Be Prepared
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In the third session of the Cavendish pairs, you are defending a tight slam with a bundle of IMPs at stake.None vul, West deals. As West, you hold:


West
873
Q976
85
A986
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P

  • 1: Strong and artificial
  • 2NT: 13+ HCP, balanced

Your lead?


It looks pretty natural to lead a spade. The opponents don't appear to have a long suit, so you want to be safe. If you do lead a spade, the 3 is probably best for deceptive purposes. It won't make any difference to partner, but declarer may play you for a different holding.

Before making the opening lead, it is a good idea to form an approximate picture of the opponents hands and get an idea of how the play is likely to go. North appears to have a little above a minimum 1 opening, as he was willing to stop in 3NT opposite a 13-count but when South showed a further sign of life North drove to slam. South's 4 call appears to be a 4-card suit, looking for a 4-4 fit. North didn't raise diamonds or bid 4 of a major, so he probably doesn't have 4 in any of those suits. If North had 5 clubs he probably would have tried 5, so North is probably 3-3-3-4.

South has a little more than his promised 13 points, since he didn't pass 3NT. He clearly has a diamond suit, probably a 4-card suit. He doesn't have 4 clubs, or he would have bid 4 instead of 4. He probably isn't 3-3-4-3, since with that shape he might not have bothered introducing the diamond suit. Thus, South is likely some 4-4-3-2 shape with 4 diamonds and a 4-card major.

As far as strength goes, partner can't have much. However, he probably isn't completely broke, since if he were, the enemy bidding might have been more forceful. He is likely to have a couple of jacks.

How will the play go? Declarer will probably knock out your A as soon as he can. Then he will do whatever squeezing or finessing he can to take the rest of the tricks. You have 4 clubs in front of dummy's projected 4-card holding, and your 9 may come into play to protect the fourth round of clubs. If your projection of the distribution is accurate, partner probably has 4 diamonds in front of declarer's 4-card holding. The cards appear to be favorably placed for declarer if he needs some kind of double squeeze.

A minor-suit lead clearly can't be right. But might it be right to lead a heart? That could be the middle suit of a double squeeze, and your heart continuation could kill the communication for the squeeze. Also a heart lead will have great deceptive value, since declarer will never believe you led away from a queen on this auction. Against all this, the heart lead could flat out give up a heart trick and the contract. It is tempting, but perhaps it is too big a position to take.

You lead the 3.

West
873
Q976
85
A986
North
KQJ
AK2
K107
Q754
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P


Dummy is exactly what you had anticipated. Partner plays the 6, and declarer plays the 2. Your agreements are that against notrump, if the opening lead isn't an honor and third hand isn't attempting to win the trick, third hand signals standard (not upside-down) count.

Before turning your card over, you should form in your mind a rough picture of declarer's hand and how the play is likely to go. This will help you be prepared for any defensive decisions you may need to make. So, take your time now before you move on to trick 2.


West
873
Q976
85
A986
North
KQJ
AK2
K107
Q754
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P

At trick 2, declarer leads the 4 to his king, partner playing the 2. How do you defend?

West
87
Q976
85
A986
North
QJ
AK2
K107
Q754
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P

The spade position isn't 100% clear. Partner's 6 could be his lowest from 1096. Or it could be high from 10643. It is true that partner could work out that he could afford the 10, but in practice most players would routinely play the 6 thinking that it should be readable. Looking at declarer's hand, if declarer has 3 spades that would make his shape probably 3-3-4-3, and with that distribution he might not have bothered with 4. So, declarer is probably 4-2-4-3.

What is going on in the club suit? Declarer can't have king-doubleton with a small club, since partner would have played one of his honors from J10x. If declarer has K10 doubleton or K10x he would have finessed the 10. Therefore, declarer must have KJ of clubs at least, so there is no reason to win the first club trick. Declarer will probably cross to dummy in spades to lead another club, and this will let you confirm the spade count.

It is possible that you will want to duck the second round of clubs also in order to deceive declarer about the club suit. This deception will work only if you were prepared to duck the A twice without giving away that you owned the card. This illustrates how important it is to be prepared, so you can duck the club without a problem.

Suppose you duck the K without giving the show away. As expected declarer crosses to dummy with a spade, partner playing the 10. Now declarer leads a club to his jack, partner playing the 10. If you have to think about it, you better win the ace, as otherwise declarer will know he can get a third club trick simply by playing another club. But if you were prepared, do you win the ace or duck smoothly? And if you duck, does it matter whether you play the 8 or the 9?

West
8
Q976
85
A98
North
J
AK2
K107
Q75
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P


Partner's spade play confirms that declarer started with 4 spades. This gives declarer 2 clubs, 2 hearts, and 4 spades, so if he has 4 diamond tricks he is cold. You must assume that partner controls the fourth round of diamonds. This gives declarer something like Axxx xx AQxx KJx, which is perfectly consistent with everything.

What will happen if you win the ace of clubs? Whatever you return, declarer will test the clubs, finding out that you have the long club. He will then unblock the spades if they aren't already unblocked, and try for a 3-3 diamond split ending in his hand. When you show out on the third round of diamonds he will cash the A, knowing that he has a lock double squeeze. Therefore, winning the A is essentially a concession.

Is there a chance if you duck the A? Probably not. Declarer will be wary of playing a third round of clubs for fear that partner started with 4 clubs, so he will probably test the diamonds. When he discovers that partner has 4 diamonds he will think he is down, but he will have no choice but to lead a club up to dummy which will work. However, things can happen. Perhaps declarer's diamonds are AJ9x, and he decides that you are more likely to have longer diamonds so he plays you for the queen. Or perhaps declarer imagines some kind of non-existent end position and finds a way to go down. You never know.

If you do duck the second round of clubs, it is important that you play the 8, not the 9, on the second round of clubs. The reason is that partner would never have played the 10 on the second round if he started with A108x, since declarer might have KJ9 tripleton. Therefore, if you mistakenly play the 9 declarer will know it is safe to play a third round of clubs. If you play the 8 declarer will not know a third round of clubs is safe, since partner might play the 10 on the second round from A109x.

At the table you are not prepared. You woodenly win the A on the first round, and return a spade. As expected, declarer unblocks the spades and tests the clubs, partner discarding a heart on the third club. You sit back and await your fate. Incredibly, declarer then cashes the AK, leads the 10 to his ace, and cashes the A. What do you discard?

West
Q9
8
9
North
2
K7
7
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P


The hand is now an open book. Declarer must have started with Axxx xx AQ9x KJx. He is going to have to guess whether or not to finesse the 9 at the end. You want to give the impression that you are long in diamonds, therefore you should discard the Q. This is what you would have to discard if you had started with xxx Qxx Jxx A98x. This discard would be bad if declarer has Jxx, but that makes no sense. It would mean that declarer had bid a 3-card diamond suit. Also, if declarer has Jxx he would have had you in a heart-club squeeze if he hadn't cashed off the AK. Discarding the Q is 100% safe.

You carelessly discard the 9. Dummy discards a club, and partner discards a heart. Declarer crosses to the K, and leads a diamond, partner following small. After long thought declarer goes up queen, and he is down 1. The full hand:


West
873
Q976
85
A986
North
KQJ
AK2
K107
Q754
East
1096
J854
J642
102
South
A542
103
AQ93
KJ3
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
K
6
2
1
1
0
4
2
K
A
0
1
1
8
Q
9
4
1
2
1
J
10
5
7
1
3
1
5
10
J
6
3
4
1
3
8
Q
4
1
5
1
A
5
3
6
1
6
1
K
8
10
7
1
7
1
10
2
A
5
3
8
1
A
9
2
J
3
9
1
3
8
K
4
1
10
1
7
6
Q
12


Declarer's line of play would have been successful if you had been 4-4 in the minors, but obviously playing for the double squeeze is a much better percentage play. He simply didn't see it.

Should declarer have gotten the diamond guess right at the end?


West
873
Q976
85
A986
North
KQJ
AK2
K107
Q754
East
1096
J854
J642
102
South
A542
103
AQ93
KJ3
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
4
P
6NT
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
K
6
2
1
1
0
4
2
K
A
0
1
1
8
Q
9
4
1
2
1
J
10
5
7
1
3
1
5
10
J
6
3
4
1
3
8
Q
4
1
5
1
A
5
3
6
1
6
1
K
8
10
7
1
7
1
10
2
A
5
3
8
1
A
9
2
J
3
9
1
3
8
K
4
1
10
1
7
6
Q
12


He probably should have gotten it right. He was playing you for an initial holding of xxx xxx Jxx A98x. From that hand you might have led either major, while from your actual hand your only safe lead is a spade. It is a matter of restricted choice on the opening lead. This illustrates why you should have discarded the Q. If you had done so, there would have been no inference available from the opening lead.

The actual hand illustrates how effective a heart lead would have been. For starters, it breaks up the double squeeze. In addition declarer would almost certainly misguess the diamonds at the end, since he would never believe that you would lead from Q9xx of hearts against 6NT on this auction. He would place the Q in partner's hand, which would mean that the diamonds would have to be 3-3. I doubt if any expert would have the courage to find a heart lead at the table, but it certainly is something to think about.

The result was extremely fortunate for us. I would expect just about every declarer in the event to find the double squeeze the way the play went. We happened to be playing against a declarer who had a blind spot, and we won a ton of IMPs instead of losing a ton of IMPs. This is the nature of IMP pairs.

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