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We Need To Go Deeper

West
10842
J8765
Q987
North
KQ75
94
1063
KJ43
East
J93
32
J5
AQ10972
South
A6
AKQ10
AK42
865
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
X
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
11
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
5
9
A
3
1
0
1

I love bridge hands that get more and more complicated the longer you stare at them.

My friend Max gave this hand (from the 10AM pair game on the last day of St. Louis -- congrats on qualifying for that event, Max) by IM to me as a play problem after East doubles for a club lead and West leads a fourth-best 2. Just wanting to make my contract and get back to work, I immediately said that declarer could count on West to be 4(45)0, since he would almost certainly lead a club if he had one after partner doubled, and he'd probably prefer a six-card suit to a bad four-card one. So I came up with the uninspired line of cashing all my pointy suit tricks and exiting a diamond, waiting for West to give me the 10for my 9th trick.

"Sure," Max says, ignoring my pleas to return to work, "but if East is really 3226 or 3316, couldn't you also just strip East's non-club cards and duck a club?" Okay, fine. This also leads to 9 tricks.

But there's that infernal Deep Finesse on the hand record, the bane of every bridge player's existence, saying I can make 10 tricks. How? The more I looked at it, the more interested I got.

At first, I thought that the club duck and forced club return might squeeze West, but in fact he can just dump two hearts since you'll have no entry back to your hand after winning the club in dummy.

Then I thought this was about the count not being rectified, but really it's just a simple entry problem. You've got 8 top tricks, you're trying to make 10, this must be a triple squeeze, right? So just duck a diamond, win the return, thenstrip the rest of East's non-clubs, and now throw East in with a club. West really does get squeezed on the forced club return because you've kept the K as an entry to the red suit threats. I was happy.

But I still couldn't work. I was thinking about my impulsive nature and how it constantly screws me at the bridge table, and I had a vision of myself cashing two hearts and a diamond before I even stopped to think about the hand. "Better get these winners now," I would think. "They might go away," I would lie. Too late to duck a diamond now; West can just hop up with the Q, squashing his partner's jack, and exit a diamond to dummy's now established ten; a rare but satisfying defensive winkle. I won't be able to avoid losing three club tricks because East can just keep putting me back in dummy and I never reach my K.

But if we go one level deeper, maybe I can still recover from all this. I kept hearing "winkle" over and over in my mind because, let's face it, winkle is a hilarious word. I had lazily gotten to this end position:

West
1084
J87
Q98
North
KQ7
106
KJ43
East
J3
J
AQ10972
South
6
Q10
K42
865
D
11

No one said I had to use diamonds to rectify the count; this doesn't have to be a three-suit squeeze. In the above position, I can cash the top two spades and exit the last spade to West (pitching two clubs from hand), arriving at this 6-card ending:

West
J87
Q98
North
106
KJ43
East
J
AQ1097
South
Q10
K42
8
D
11

What can West do?

  • If he exits a heart, that's trick 9, and now I just cash my winners and duck a club to East for trick 10.
  • If he exits a small diamond, East wins the jack but has to return a club to dummy for trick 9; now king and a diamond forces West to lead a heart into my Q10at trick 12.
  • If he exits the Q to prevent all this, squishing his partner's J, the 10is established as trick 9, with the club endplay still to come for trick 10.

"Okay, this was a pretty neat hand. What happened at your table?" I ask, all hopes of getting back to work long gone.

"I was West," Max started, "and my opponents had the same auction." I knew Max was defending on this hand because at the Hawaii Regional two years ago Bruce Ferguson doubled Stayman against him and me on two consecutive deals, both with calamitous results for our side, so I KNOW Max always has agreements about these auctions. I'm pretty sure our agreement is thatwhen the opponents double Stayman,partner will (at his turn) flip the table and run out of the room screaming. Alas, that is a topic for another article.
Max continued: "Having no club to lead, I tried a suit of the same color, and I also thought it was less likely to give the 2NT opener a free finesse. East put up the J, and declarer won. He immediately led a club toward dummy [Ed.: apparently forgetting the auction] and winced when I pitched a heart. Realizing the hopelessness of the club situation, he played the jack, losing to partner's queen. Partner returned a spade, which declarer won, and following the basic Greg Humphreys-patented cash-all-your-winners-before-they-go-away™ thought process, declarer cashed all his winners before they went away."

West
10
J
Q7
North
7
10
K4
East
A1097
South
10
42
8
D
11

Now I started to see why Max had given me this hand in the first place. Since declarer had forgotten to keep a tenace in hearts, when he exited a heart to Max, Max was able to win the J, cash the 10, the Q, and finally, after years of practice automatically unblocking diamond spots, the 7 for the setting, final, and delicious beer trick.
Max had intended to tell a story about thebeer card, and it became a story about a winkle. Is there anything the 7 can't do?
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