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Weekend Decussation
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North
AK76
J87
92
AK75
South
J92
AK63
J63
Q86
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

This hand was played at the North Island Teams, one of New Zealand's major annual team's tournaments last weekend. The excellent team of Ashley Bach, Michael Cornell (former World Pairs Champions), GeO Tislevoll, and Michael Ware (perennial New Zealand represenatives) won convincingly - results can be found here http://tournaments.nzbridgeclub.org/teamresults.asp?id=8379&umbid=285&iswide=y

The bidding shown is from my table, however 3NT was predictably the final contract at most (29) of the 36 tables. Double dummy 3NT is cold but 22 of 29 declarer's failed.

East led the A.

What are your prospects?

Not great. The textbooks and conventional wisdom tells us that 26 points should justify bidding game but here we are not close to reasonable play for 9 tricks.

We have three top clubs and two top cards in both majors for seven tricks. Eighth and ninth tricks will have to come from a good club break and by scoring one of our major suit jacks, or by scoring both major suit jacks if the clubs do not break. The chances for the major queens dropping though is small and the club break against the odds.

Before that though we have to hope that the diamonds behave by either breaking 4-4 or with a blockage.

Fortunately the play continued with trick two K, trick three Q, and trick four a diamond to west's ten. So the diamonds broke nicely.

Declarer threw two spades from hand and one heart from dummy (south) on the third and fourth diamonds.

West played the 5 at trick five. Perforce declarer won the A (or K) in hand.

Do we have any other chances than the unlikely drop of major suit queens and the club break?

Yes.

If the clubs break, then we can cash the spade ace and east will be positionally squeezed on the fourth club. The position will be:

West
xx
xxx
North
Jxx
x
East
Q
Qxx
South
J
AKx
D

On the club thirteener east cannot pitch the Q as the J is threatening in the dummy, so must pitch a heart. Then declarer pitches the J, it has done its work and A, K, and J win the last three tricks.

Note: if the Q or Q had been doubleton the whole time then in this line we would automatically pick them up. The spades having been cashed before the last club we would have seen a doubleton Q fall and cashing the AK at the end would fell any Q dealt doubleton.

Also if the clubs did not break we have preserved our minimal chance of dropping both major queens doubleton.

Can we do better?

Well maybe. If the major suit queens are both guarded by west then the positional squeeze will not work but by not cashing the K west will succumb to the flexibility of a criss-cross squeeze. 

To simplify the position and to show off the symmetry of the situation I have cashed the A early in the following position:

West
Qx
Qx
North
K
Jx
x
East
xx
xx
South
Jx
Kx
D

On the last club, declarer can pitch the heart from dummy and then 

1. if west pitches a spade declarer can cash the K felling the Q and enter dummy with the K to cash the

2. if west pitches a heart declarer can cash the K felling the Q and reenter hand with he K to cash the J.

Note: if east has the major queens in this position the criss-cross squeeze is equally effective.

Well isn't this much better than the squeeze against east?

In theory yes but in practice only maybe.

By my calculations after the diamonds and clubs have broken favourably there is a 10.8% chance of squeezing each opponent. Therefore in theory we are 10.8% (of the small chance of favourable diamonds and clubs) better off with the criss-cross squeeze. 

In practice however we have to guess who has been squeezed and indeed whether there has been a squeeze or whether there was a major suit doubleton from the beginning.

1. If both major suits were doubleton from the beginning then we can't go wrong. We will cash one major king and the queen will drop.

2. If one major suit was doubleton from the beginning we might cash the wrong king and while eventually our jack will establish we will have no entry to cash it.

3. If one opponent is squeezed then we have to guess which opponent. Some opponents will give this away but some might not.

Again after the club and diamond suits have behaved I make it 25.5% that we will drop a doubleton queen or that east will be squeezed. 

And about 36.4% that we can squeeze either opponent in the criss-cross or drop a doubleton queen.

Superficially the criss-cross is better but it relies on a good guess. My calculations suggest guessing right nearly 68% is needed to favour the criss-cross - although it makes a better story.

In addition guessing who has been squeezed might be relatively easy but guessing who was dealt a doubleton queen might be more difficult so the calculation is probably more complex than what I have attempted.

Is there anything else?

Yes I think so.

At the table, there was the lead of the A from AKQx. Even the most ardent major suit leader would probably choose a diamond rather than a broken major with this holding. However, on another day you might get a low diamond lead and discover that the diamonds are 4=4. Now when the clubs turn out to be 3=3 you might ask why east did not lead a major? The answer is almost surely that east is 3=3 in the majors - as will be west. In this case only a squeeze can help you as there will be no doubleton major queen. Moreover if you back yourself to guess better than 50% you should play the criss-cross rather than the positional squeeze.

Is there any other chance?

Yes.

Another chance in the play is that it is possible to drop one major suit queen and then execute a squeeze in clubs and the other major. If you drop the Q then there is a potential positional squeeze against west in hearts and clubs.

West
Q
Jxxx
North
J
AKxx
East
x
xx
xx
South
J
x
Qxx
D

West has no good discard on the J.

Whereas, if you drop the heart queen then you may be able to squeeze either opponent in spades and clubs.

West
x
xx
xx
North
J
AKxx
East
Q
Jxxx
South
J
x
Qxx
D

On the J in the diagram shown east has no good discard but if you swap the east and west hands then west would be squeezed.

Playing off both the top spade and heart honours immediately allows for either squeeze to be played depending on which (if any) queen drops.

So which squeeze would you play for?

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