A CHALLENGING ROUND
by Stephen Rzewski
On the last round of a pairs event at a Cape Cod tournament, I pick up on the first of two boards:
♠ K92 ♥ Q5 ♦ QJ7 ♣ AK753
My good five-card suit makes up for the flawed doubleton queen, so I open 1NT. With the opponents silent, my partner
calls 4♦, a “Texas” transfer, showing long hearts and a hand good enough for game, but with no slam interest. I bid a dutiful 4♥,
LHO leads a low diamond spot, and my partner tables:
I call for a low diamond from dummy. RHO wins the king and returns a club, which I let go around to dummy's 10.
Assuming no diamond ruff, the only problem now is the trump suit which I need to hold to two losers. I will start the trumps
with a low card to the queen, and if it loses to an honor on my left, my plan is to then lead low from hand, and if nothing
good happens to that point, I may have to guess whether or not to finesse dummy's 9.
But on the first heart play, RHO plays the king. That is helpful in one respect, as I can play small from my hand now,
but it is bad news in another way if the king is singleton, which would mean that LHO will have started with A10xx. After
winning the trick, RHO opts to play a spade. As will be seen, I may need to save entries to my hand, so I let the spade go around
to dummy, with LHO playing the queen to force dummy's ace. I now lead a second heart to my queen, and my fears are confirmed
as RHO shows out, discarding a spade, and LHO wins the trick with her ace. She plays a second spade to dummy's 10, RHO's jack,
and I win the king. The position is now:
LHO has 10-x remaining in trumps in front of dummy's J-9, creating a finessable position, but I do not have a trump
left in my hand to take the finesse. All is not lost, however. It may be possible to achieve the finesse by means of a trump coup,
if I can time the hand so as to have the lead in my hand at the penultimate trick.
To begin with, I must reduce dummy's trumps to the same length as LHO's. I start by leading the 9 of spades,
which is actually a winner, but which I ruff in dummy, as LHO shows out, discarding a club. I then lead dummy's queen of clubs
and overtake with the king, crossing my fingers as LHO thankfully follows with a club. Now I lead a low club, and when LHO
discards a diamond, I ruff again in dummy, reducing the trumps to J-9. Now a low diamond to my queen, with everyone
following. With three tricks left, this is the position, with the lead in my hand, where it needs to be:
I now lead the ace of clubs. If LHO ruffs, dummy will simply overruff, draw the last trump and win the ace of diamonds.
When instead she discards her last diamond, I discard dummy's ace of diamonds, retaining the lead in my hand and achieving the
desired position, effectively finessing west in trumps.
With fatigue setting in from the long session, I hope for a routine last board, but instead pick up:
♠ A53 ♥ AK2 ♦ AKQJ9 ♣ K2
There are 24 high-card points, but the hand should be treated more like a 26-count with the nearly solid 5-card suit plus
the proliferation of aces and kings, which are slightly undervalued on the point-count scale. I will not tire the reader with our auction,
which involved a treatment called “Kokish” relay, but a possible simple and straightforward auction might go:
2♣ - 2♦
3NT - 6NT
with the two hands being:
The opening lead is the queen of clubs. Assuming the diamonds will run, making twelve tricks will not be a problem.
I have eleven top tricks and will simply take the heart finesse against the queen; even if it loses, a third heart will be established
in the process. However, because the scoring is matchpoints, plus the fact that one would expect this same contract to be bid
at many tables, it may be essential to bear down and make an overtrick, if it is there to be had.
So I win the ace of clubs in dummy at trick #1 and lead the jack of hearts, playing low from my hand, and it wins.
I then test the diamonds and play two rounds, just to make sure the suit is running, and everyone follows. I then play off the
top hearts, but the queen does not come down, as LHO shows out on the third round, discarding a club. I now have twelve winners.
I certainly can't afford to finesse dummy's jack of spades now, because if it loses, RHO will cash the established heart and
I will go down. So must I just settle for twelve tricks now?
Actually, I see a possible play for the overtrick which is risk-free and a certainty, as long as LHO started life with
the QJ10 of clubs, certainly possible on that opening lead. A double-squeeze can be executed, with dummy's 9 of clubs and
10 of hearts serving as threat cards against LHO and RHO respectively. I play off the king of clubs and all but one of my
diamond winners, discarding a low spade and low club from dummy, leaving:
♠ ?xx ♠ ?xx
♥ ----- ♥ Q
♦ ----- ♦ -----
♣ J ♣ -----
Now when I play my last diamond, it does not matter which hand holds the queen of spades. LHO has to keep
her jack of clubs, lest dummy's 9 be established, and so must discard a spade. Now when dummy's club is discarded,
RHO must keep the queen of hearts, or else dummy's 10 will become a winner, and so must also discard a spade.
With each opponent now holding only two spades, a low spade to the king and then back to the ace, and my lowly
3-spot must be a winner for the 13th trick, the full deal being:
♠ 986 ♠ Q1072
♥ 74 ♥ Q854
♦ 854 ♦ 1073
♣ QJ1054 ♣ 87