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Checkmate

balickihand

NOTE: Since publication, our readers have alerted us that this deal is very similar to one written up in Adventures in Card Play , by Hugh Kelsey and Geza Ottlik.  We acknowledge the similarity and we are following up with a further investigation into the circumstances.  However, we still find the deal instructive.  Whether it really happened at the table or merely was a good story, we are leaving the article up so that others can enjoy the concept.  We also strongly recommend those who enjoy the hand to check out the rest of the book for some truly wonderful hands.

In the world of strategy games, Bridge and Chess are two of the most popular out there. The skill gap between experts and beginners is large. Though they require some similar abilities to excel, it is very rare that you find someone who is great at both games. There is one person in the world whom I believe could challenge the rest at a mind game biathlon and find noone willing to accept. Cezary Balicki of Poland. Standing outside the hotel in Philadelphia with Cezary and Pierre Zimmermann, Pierre said to Cezary, "you must tell him about the hand you played last month, it is spectacular". He wrote the board on a piece of paper and told the story. I photographed the paper and I now present you the hand as I recall it...

 

CONTRACT: 4 LEAD 7 (3rd/5th)

West
North
Q97
AQ74
8652
104
East
Balicki
AK10642
32
KJ
J75
W
N
E
S
1NT
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
2
A
J
2
0
1
3
2

1NT = 15-17

The 7 lead provides declarer a map of the high card layout. If the lead was from 74 then east would likely attempt to give his partner a ruff.  Since a defender would not lead the 7 from T97 or Q1097, the lead is almost surely from Q107(4) or Q97(4). If the lead was from 74 then east would attempt to give his partner a ruff. Without the K onside declarer will fail, so he must assume that finesse will work. Placing both of those cards in the west hand, leaves exactly 15 points for east.

The defense found the best shift to a trump at trick 2. If trumps break 2-2, declarer can eventually trump his 3rd club in dummy. Therefore, Cezary assumed trumps were 3-1 because that is the only time his play will matter. It is clear that the defense should lead a trump each time they gain the lead with a or else Cezary could trump his 3rd club. Instead of crossing his fingers and hoping trumps broke 2-2, he planned his play around making it when they broke 3-1, without compromising his chances with 2-2 trumps. 

Since Cezary assumed RHO has 3 , and that LHO has at least 3, there are only a few possible shapes RHO might have.

  1. 3-2-4-4
  2. 3-3-4-3
  3. 3-3-3-4
  4. 3-4-3-3
  5. 3-2-3-5

Note: East must have at least 3 clubs as he is known to have AKQ

He decided to do a little investigating of the distribution and preserved his entries by winning the A in his hand at trick 2. He cashed the K (LHO dropping the 10, which confirmed LHO started with 3 or 4 diamonds) and played a to the Q. He now safely trumped a to his hand to see who had 4. When the Queen ruffed out on his left, he discovered his right hand opponent had 4 which left him with only two possible shapes... 3-2-4-4 OR 3-3-4-3. So now he played a to the ace and ruffed a . On the third round of east's shape became known... 3-3-4-3. Now he finally played a . East won and was forced to play a trump. He now won in dummy with the 9 and led the 12th from the table and east found himself squeezed. He could not afford to trump, discard the high or one of his honors.

What did Cezary plan to do if were 4-3 the other way?

After ruffing the in his hand he would now just play a out, win the trump return and play another . Now when east returns a trump he would win in his hand and run his trumps executing a double squeeze.

Here was the full deal as I remember it:

West
8
K1085
Q107
98632
North
Q97
AQ74
8652
104
East
J53
J97
A943
AKQ
Balicki
AK10642
32
KJ
J75
D
}

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