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All comments by Stefan Ralescu
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Jonathan,

You’re right about guessing and in fact that applies to other cases as well. Imagine spades are 1-1, West has 10xx of diamonds and Qxxx of clubs. You can make the grand slam, but not by cashing the ace-king of diamonds. After finessing in clubs, in this situation you need to guess the diamonds to execute the squeeze against the LHO.
Feb. 26, 2011
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Larry,
If you’re testing the diamonds first (with nothing happening) and then lead a club to the jack, you will go down when (say) East started with 2=6=4=1 with the stiff club queen but without the diamond queen. With that hand you can surely argue that East (and/or West) might have bid something at the table, but let’s forget about that aspect now.
My point is that after testing the diamonds and the queen doesn’t appear, you need the club finesse and that suit to break 3-3. But suppose you ruff the opening lead, play two rounds of spades and then cash the club king. If the queen doesn’t fall, you can then play a low club to the jack (and pray…).
However when the queen of clubs turns up on your right and East started with the above shape, you will be able to (criss-cross) squeeze West in the minors if he holds the diamond queen.
Feb. 25, 2011
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The post-mortem becomes interesting and we can see (although far from obvious) that East might be able to find the killing defense if he realizes that South can succeed if he is 3=4=4=2 with the queen-jack of spades and king-queen of hearts. Indeed, following the actual play at the table, with a 3=4=4=2 distribution declarer can play the ace of diamonds at trick 7 putting pressure on East. On that trick East is squeezed in three suits!
Feb. 8, 2011
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Jonathan,

You are correct, deciding to finesse the 9 would be risky (some would say even foolish).
The (slight) benefit of leading a spade from the table would be some kind of reaction from the right-hand opponent with the best outcome being when he splits.
Following this line, what would you do as declarer if East chooses to pause before playing a low spade?
Jan. 6, 2011
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Cashing the spade ace is not particularly the best play knowing that righty is likely to have long spades. Instead declarer can cross to the club king (say) and lead a low spade from the table, just in case East started life with J-10 of spades. Admittedly this is a very tough play to execute at the table and I am not recommending it, but the remark is noteworthy in the postmortem analysis.
Jan. 6, 2011
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Nice defensive problem.
Arik is correct as long as one of declarer’s club x’s is the jack, otherwise East’s play at Trick 6 is not so crucial, he can safely play a low club and let his partner find the winning defense.
Now Steve, I think that you were lucky to be on the receiving end of the tough defensive decision after you got the “positive signal in clubs” from your partner. Just imagine how West would have reacted if declarer won Trick 5 in his hand and led a low club from there. In this scenario it is very difficult for West not to play the king of clubs and in fact that would be the correct decision if South started with AKQxx-xxx-KJx-Ax. But in this variant dummy play sequence, when South turns out to have started with AKQxx-KJx-KJx-xx and West plays the club king at Trick 6, the contract can no longer be defeated.
Dec. 22, 2010
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By playing the hand the way he did, declarer managed to get the trumps blocked and lose control when he ruffed the club queen in dummy.
At Trick 8 South can: (1) cash the spade king, then cross to the heart queen and ruff the 4th club or (2) simply play two more hearts.
Dec. 12, 2010
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Steve, that was a nice problem, thx. Just a final point. I agree with your appraisal about the real possibility of very light preempts, but on the present deal, from declarer’s perspective, could West be loaded in all suits?
To a player like Versace, I think that West’s diamond continuation at trick two should be revealing.
With the club suit, the diamond ace, the heart queen (positioned after ace-king) AND the spade king, West (with all those entries) would have surely shifted to a club honor at trick two to defeat the contract all by himself.
Oct. 30, 2010
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Steve, in A, what do you do if declarer ducks your club return?
You will lead a second club, I presume. Now declarer takes the queen and crosses to the jack of hearts on which you must make a discard.
= If you pitch a spade, South can cash the ace of clubs to get complete count of the hand.
= Alternatively, if you throw a club, declarer can safely lead a low spade and insert the nine when East plays low.
Notice that this single dummy play caters for the situation when East is 2=2=7=2 (and West started life with five clubs) as well as when he is 1=2=7=3.
Oct. 29, 2010
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On the actual layout, after cashing the ace-king of diamonds, South can switch to a club or a heart to defeat the contract. The same is true if East is 5=4=2=2 with solid spades and the heart ace, i.e. a heart return would be as good as a club switch at trick three.
Now, if East is 6=3=2=2 (with solid spades and the heart ace), the contract can not be defeated if he holds the club queen. However, if East doesn’t have the club queen, the killing defense is not to cash a second diamond but instead to switch to a club or a heart at trick two.
Finally, if declarer is 6=4=2=1 (with solid spades and the heart ace), after cashing the ace-king of diamonds, leading a club will not be good enough to defeat the contract. The only defense to beat the contract is for South to switch to a spade or a diamond in that case.
Oct. 21, 2010
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On the 5th and 6th diamonds played by declarer Jeff pitched the club 7 and the spade 7, respectively. Seven is a lucky number, but not here, not in his case…
If North started with 6 diamonds and 4 clubs, why would East not pitch hearts on the diamonds?
Oct. 13, 2010
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Finding West with both heart honors was indeed very unlucky.

It is difficult to say whether it represents an improvement or not, but declarer can try the effect of playing the heart queen at trick three right after scoring the club ten and before (possibly) losing two club tricks. On the actual layout, West wins the heart and the continuation is likely to be the deuce of diamonds to East’s king and a diamond back from East.
Declarer wins in dummy with the ace and leads the heart ten.
= If that is allowed to win, South can revert to clubs by leading the three to the jack. Now even if that loses to the queen, West’s return can’t hurt and declarer gets the chance to test both major suits for a 3-3 break.
= If West wins the second heart as well (see the actual diagram), on any return declarer can test the spades and if they split 3-3 the contract is safe.
Oct. 12, 2010
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Hi Bryan,

First of all, I do agree that Steve’s play based on the Dentist Coup was very nice and successful. However, my point was (and still is) that his play worked because West started life with only two clubs. If you exchange a small club and a small heart between East and West and then play the hand following Steve’s line, you should realize that the contract can be defeated.
Now, if South estimates that West has two heart honors including the ace (which is quite likely in view of his opening bid), playing a spade at trick two and starting hearts right away (assuming West wins and returns a club) is the only way to collect nine tricks. This approach works on the actual layout as well as when West’s shape is 4=2=4=3. Notice that if you play (as I suggested) the heart 10 from the dummy (at trick four) and East and West both duck, you can safely assume that West started with three hearts and accordingly cash another top club before reverting to hearts. Try it out and you will see how the play works. As I said, this line pays nice dividends when West is 4=2=4=3 and the Dentist Coup fails.
Oct. 6, 2010
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Bryan,

By 4=2=3=4 I mean 4 spades, 2 hearts, 4 diamonds and 3 clubs(see my indication of card exchange.)
Now, in view of the opening bid, West is more likely to have the heart ace, but if East holds that card, I fail to see how “Steve's play guarantees the contract at trick 4.”
On the play I suggested declarer leads a spade at trick two and if West wins and returns a club, South starts hearts right away.
Oct. 5, 2010
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The key play by declarer was to win the first trick with the ace. The dentist coup worked nicely since West started life with two clubs. If declarer judges that West’s shape is 4=2=3=4, cashing A-K of clubs and then playing spades may not lead to success (to see this, just exchange the heart two and the club three between East and West.)
However, after winning the spade ace,South can play another spade. Now if West wins and returns a club, playing hearts is a fine option on the actual layout as well as when West’s shape is 4=2=3=4.
Oct. 5, 2010
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I guess running the diamond to the closed hand at trick one is not a bad move. East is likely to play the 9 or the 10 and the trick is won by the queen (say). At the table, I don't suppose many players would have the guts to finesse the 8 at trick two, but perhaps leading a low diamond to the jack would facilitate the dummy play. If East shows out, declarer can go after the spades and has a good chance to succeed.
Sept. 2, 2010
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With the diamond spots as given and the opening lead of the diamond 5, if you win with diamond 6, cash the queen of diamonds and then go after spades, if West ruffs the 3rd spade, you can afford to ruff this and another spade and collect 13 tricks.
Am I misunderstanding something?
Sept. 1, 2010
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The only way the contract can be defeated is by an unlikely opening lead of a low spade.
Aug. 13, 2010
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Nice article!

(South led the club deuce, his fourth best.)

After the return of the heart nine at trick five, declarer may be able to avoid a later guess by timing the play differently. Playing for some sort of Information Squeeze in an attempt to force South to give up useful information, East wins the heart in dummy and cashes the queen and ten of diamonds putting pressure on South.
South wouldn’t pitch a spade if he started life with four and he would likely not pitch a club (although he might do so hoping that his partner started also with four clubs-a decision that he might regret later.) Assuming South discards a heart, East cashes the king of hearts to get the complete count. On the actual deal, ten tricks are collected by the same endplay as executed by Erin Feldman.
Should South pitch a spade on the fourth diamond (from a 3=3=3=4 hand), declarer can play the ace-queen of spades (pitching a heart and forcing South to do likewise), cash the heart ace and exit with the club seven, endplaying South.

Notice that if North is 4=4=2=3, having to make two pitches on the diamonds he would be forced to part with at least a club. If East judges that South did not start with both 9-8 of clubs, after cashing the heart king she could endplay South by leading the 10 of clubs.

Aug. 8, 2010
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