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All comments by Stefan Ralescu
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As noted, ducking the diamond eight in dummy followed by the heart three to the king at trick 3 and the heart deuce back to the queen is not the way to proceed.

If you played this hand and failed, what could really be slightly depressing is that almost any other sequence of play would have worked just fine with the actual East-West hands. Let’s not include now those plays that have already been discussed, but here are some more options for declarer that would have succeeded:

- rise with the ace at trick 1, and start drawing trumps;

- duck the opening lead, overtake the diamond queen with the ace and lead next the six of diamonds. If East ruffs, you can overruff as cheaply as possible and then lead a trump up. Alternatively, if East pitches a black card, you can ruff low and then lead the queen of hearts. In this case, if West wins the ace and plays a diamond, just pitch a club from dummy and you’ll be fine;

- duck the opening lead, win the diamond return in the closed hand and lead a club from there. You can win that trick in dummy or you can play low from there, it makes absolutely no difference with the given East-West cards.

Obviously, at the table, the last two approaches will not been seriously considered.
May 22, 2011
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Nice article, Mike.

As is often the case, bridge analysis is an ongoing process.
Reading your article and not knowing the complete hand, it appeared to me that since West started with 6 diamonds, East would have been the more likely opponent to hold 4 spades. If that was the case, provided East held the club queen as well, declarer would have had a black suit squeeze at his disposal. But, of course, that was not the situation, West’s original shape being 4=2=6=1.

Now, a deeper look at the trump spots reveals that even if declarer plays the hearts the way he did, once the deuce is led from the table and East plays the 5, all declarer has to do to survive is to cover cheaply with the 6. The only relevant case when this play wouldn’t be right is when East has Kx of diamonds and A54 of hearts, but if so East would never play a low heart twice.

Cheap seats could have been rewarded by cheap play…
May 21, 2011
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Henry,

Votre article est très intéressant et vous proposez une donne digne d’intérêt, car c'est un jeu de la carte qui amène à la réflexion.
Mais tout d’abord, êtes-vous sûr de vouloir dire “Embarde de Reichesse” et non pas “Embarras de Richesse”?

Also, I think declarer should have tanked before playing at Trick 1 (maybe he did?) prior to making the crucial decision regarding his choice of play in trumps.

And finally, I am somewhat puzzled why you’re saying that Hurd was wrong on this hand, as West showed out” (just kidding, of course).

Nice article!
May 20, 2011
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Actually, if West is 2=3=3=5 with a spade honor (but not both) and the king-queen of diamonds, the “Zia alternative” of ducking the club lead and playing the ten of spades after West continues clubs won’t really work against best defense even if you can guess the spades, the reason being that declarer has insurmountable communication problems.
May 15, 2011
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Are we all done analyzing this deal and posting comments about it? I don’t think so.

In fact, I have news for you. The discussion around whether declarer should finesse in spades (or not) once East played the 10 under the queen (as well as the related reference to the principle of restricted choice, etc), was some sort of diversion that shifted our focal point from the main issue of play: declarer’s communication elements.

The fact is that at the table, neither declarer should have cashed the spade queen at Trick 2 and continued spades afterwards. To digest this statement, just imagine that South plays the spade queen at Trick 2 and East follows with a low spade. Now, no matter how declarer turns his play from here on, unless a miracle happens in hearts or in diamonds, he will end-up going down when the spades are 4-1. All this has to do with the fragile transportation between the closed hand and dummy, an aspect already discussed by Jason in the article.
Not convinced yet? Just switch the diamonds queen and two between North and South and you could satisfy yourselves that with this change the slam can be made when the spades are 4-1 if South cashes the spade queen at Trick 2, East contributing a low or a high spade.

After settling this aspect, the question still remains: How should declarer play to make 6NT after East’s double and the club opening lead?

Oddly enough, if the hearts honors are split between East and West, the counterintuitive play of ducking a spade in both hands (or a heart for that matter as suggested by Jason) works very well since it gives declarer the double-squeeze as an option that is almost certain to succeed.
May 14, 2011
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Bob,

The contract was 6NT at both tables. I can't think where you got the idea it was 6S?:)
May 14, 2011
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Craig,

The heart king was played by West at trick 6.

As was noted in the article, in critical the four-card ending the opponents are out of black cards, with four cards outstanding in each of the red suits, including the deuce of hearts, but obviously excluding the heart king.

Take another look at the narrative to understand declarer’s dilemma and his play as it happened at the table.
May 13, 2011
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I guess I wasn’t full awake last night or I should have known that the contract was the same at both tables. I also kind of anticipated some reaction to my comment on the subject of restricted choice since almost always it stirs powerful emotions.

Now Barry, let me try to get this right. As I understand your comment, you are talking about the possibility that East is 1=2=4=6, right? But if so and declarer feels that that East has that distribution, the hearts don’t even factor in the play after South successfully finesses in spades since East will simply be squeezed in the minors in the end-game and declarer will end-up collecting all the tricks.
On the other hand, if declarer bypasses the spade finesse and decides to play East for 1=2=4=6, he can simply strip West of clubs and diamonds and endplay him with a spade at trick 9.

So there is no need to worry about unblocking the ten of hearts.
May 13, 2011
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Jason,

Your article presents a very nice, insightful analysis and is very entertaining. This explosive deal was indeed very interesting, rather complicated and one of the most important during that segment of the match, providing declarer with multiple opportunities of play.

I also watched it live on BBO VuGraph and if I recall correctly, the other contract (played by Hurd?) was 6S. Now, in your analysis you speak cleverly of 6NT, but in six spades I believe declarer has even more flexibility to get home. As an aside I should mention that during the play Chip stressed several times ”It’s not restricted choice” when on the spade queen East contributed the ten.

Back to the suit slam, my point is that the declarer-play problem in 6S can even be resolved by a squeeze-endplay maneuver. Say declarer wins the club ace, plays the top three spades, cashes ace-queen of diamonds, crosses to the club king and then plays the diamond king and ruffs a diamond. When South leads next his last trump from dummy, in order to protect clubs East is forced to pitch a heart. Declarer throws his low club from hand and West is endplayed.
May 13, 2011
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Gavin,

This is a touching and very inspiring story. So nice of you to share it!
May 4, 2011
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West's hand should be 5 K532 KQJ CKJ1096
April 14, 2011
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Suppose West holds 5 K532 KQJ KJ109. He leads the K and continues diamonds, declarer ruffing. Next comes the J.

What should West do, cover or not?
April 14, 2011
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Pitching a club at Trick 1 is no improvement at all.

In fact you can easily see that by cashing the club ace and continuing clubs East is essentially killing the contract.
April 8, 2011
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Adam,

As you correctly analyzed the dummy play, the crux of the matter is not to cash the diamond queen.

In fact cashing the diamond queen should be avoided even if the spade nine is in the closed hand or in dummy and that is because if you make that move followed by a low club, West can go up with the king and return the jack of diamonds. That forces dummy to ruff and no matter how declarer conducts the play from there, the defense can’t be stopped from scoring four tricks.
April 7, 2011
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Kit,

There is a mild element of randomness in the choice of declarer’s play, I agree.
If South cashes two hearts followed by two diamonds, there is a strong likelihood that East will try to signal if he has a spade honor or not and based on that declarer may decide if he wants to cash a 3rd heart or not.

As a final thought, if declarer estimates that East has two hearts and the jack of spades, after cashing the ace-queen of hearts and two diamonds ending in the closed hand, a club up is an equally effective play. West has two losing options available. Following a discard from him - say, declarer wins in dummy and leads another high club from there converting the bad option choice to his RHO.
March 6, 2011
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OK, this story presents some form of twisted analysis that is not entirely correct.

The hand reminded me of an article titled “The Battle for Communication” (the Bridge World, July 1994). Declarer’s play on the present deal is interesting, but having received the favorable club lead, South is a tempo ahead of the defense and should try to concentrate on disrupting the communication between the opponents.

Jeff, in fact your declarer does have a better line of play to make his game. He should cash only two hearts, followed by the top diamonds and then – and only then, he should play a spade giving a choice of poisons to either opponent who wins this trick.
March 5, 2011
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