COUNTDOWN by Stephen Rzewski Playing against the only competent team (besides yours, of course) in a Swiss event at a small Sectional tournament, you find yourself facing the following play problem. As you read the account, try to answer each of the numbered questions before continuing: North ♠ A42 ♥ AKQ ♦ KJ8 ♣ AQ82 South ♠ KQJ ♥ J95 ♦ Q65 ♣ K1053 bidding: S W N E 1♣ P 2♣ P 2NT P 5NT P 6NT (all pass) opening lead: ♦ A Forty years ago or more, few players would have considered the South hand worth an opening bid, but times have changed, and most today tend to open any reasonable collection containing 12 or more high-card points. North has a problem at his first turn with such a powerhouse, but he chose the “inverted minor” raise of 2♣, which is forcing for one round, hoping to get a better idea of what to do after his partner’s rebid. South’s 2NT call defined his hand within a narrow range of 12-14 hcp and balanced shape. The 5NT call by North is a quantitative raise, forcing to a small slam and inviting his partner to bid a grand slam with a maximum. With a dead minimum, South settled for the 12-trick contract. West started the proceedings by cashing the ace of diamonds, then continuing with a small diamond, East following both times. 1) How do you assess the contract, and what is your general plan? * * * * * * * You have eleven top tricks, and there will obviously be no problem if clubs divide 3-2, so you should assume they will split 4-1 or worse. It might seem natural to play off the ace and queen, enabling you to finesse against J-x-x-x in the East hand if West shows out. Possession of the 8-spot in dummy, however, makes it just possible to pick up J-9-x-x in the West hand by leading twice toward dummy and taking a double finesse. This is admittedly a highly improbable holding. Nevertheless … 2) Is there any way to play the hand to cover all the routine cases and still guard against J-9-x-x (-x) in the West hand? * * * * * * * Yes, at least possibly. The answer is to defer playing the clubs and first play as many side winners as possible in an attempt to get a count on the opponents’ hands. There is some guesswork involved on where to begin, but let's suppose that you elect to play a third round of diamonds. On this trick, West shows out, discarding a spade. 3) What suit should you play next, hearts or spades? * * * * * * * You should play hearts, not spades. Now that West is known to have started with only two diamonds, the possible danger of his holding long clubs has increased somewhat. Should you need to make two club leads from the South hand late in the play, you may need a side entry to do so. Since only the spade suit offers entries to the closed hand, and the heart suit does not, you should play all your heart winners and refrain from playing spades until later. Both opponents follow to the first two hearts, but on the third round, West again shows out, discarding another spade. 4) Should you now play three rounds of spades? * * * * * * * No, you should play only two rounds, including the ace in dummy, and leave an entry to the closed hand, for the reason explained above. On the ace and king of spades, both opponents follow suit. 5) What do you now know about the opponents’ distribution? * * * * * * * West showed out on the third round of both diamonds and hearts. That means that East started with five cards in each of those suits. East also followed to both spade leads. So there is room in East’s hand for only one club at most, marking him with a singleton or void. Therefore, West has at least four clubs. 6) So how should you play the club suit? * * * * * * * You should start with the king, guarding against a possible singleton jack in the East hand. If East follows low or shows out, lead a club of your choice from the South hand. If West follows low, finesse the 8 with full confidence. If he splits his two high clubs by playing the 9, play the queen, then use that well-preserved spade entry back to your hand to take a 2nd finesse through West’s remaining J-x toward dummy’s A-8. The full deal: North ♠ A42 ♥ AKQ ♦ KJ8 ♣ AQ82 West East ♠ 108763 ♠ 95 ♥ 83 ♥ 107642 ♦ A4 ♦ 109732 ♣ J974 ♣ 6 South ♠ KQJ ♥ J95 ♦ Q65 ♣ K1053 Did you expect to win a lot of IMPs on the hand? Well… it turns out that the opponent holding your hand at the other table found the same line and was equally disappointed to only earn a push on the board. Some days, you have to be at your best just to break even.
DEPT. OF DEFENSE by Stephen Rzewski Vul: E-W matchpoints North (dummy) ♠ K8743 ♥ J10 ♦ 1065 ♣ K72 West (you) ♠ 952 ♥ 985 ♦ A84 ♣ 10853 bidding: E S W N 1♥ 2♦ P P dbl P 2♥ 3♦ P P P opening lead: ♥ 5 Often when you are defending, the opponents are typically playing with the preponderance of high-card strength, and your assets may be meager. Under such circumstances, one can easily lose interest and concentration. It may be essential, however, to focus on the few values you have and try to make the most of them. Today’s hand came from a Regional tournament in Sturbridge. Imagine yourself defending with the West hand on the auction shown, and the play starts: trick #1: ♥5 from you, 10 from dummy, queen from partner, ace from declarer. trick #2: ♥ 3 from declarer, 9 from you, jack, king from partner. trick #3: ♥ 7 from partner, 4 from declarer, 8 from you, ♦5 (ruff) from dummy. trick #4: ♦ 6 from dummy, 3 from partner, jack from declarer, and you play…..? How do you plan the defense from here? Decide before reading on. * * * * * * * The full deal: North ♠ K8743 ♥ J10 ♦ 1065 ♣ K72 West East ♠ 952 ♠ AQ10 ♥ 985 ♥ KQ762 ♦ A84 ♦ Q3 ♣ 10853 ♣ J64 South ♠ J6 ♥ A43 ♦ KJ972 ♣ AQ9 You must duck your ace of diamonds. Partner’s play of the third heart, encouraging the ruff in dummy, and the play of the trumps suggests that declarer’s suit is broken and that partner may have the queen. If so, your 8-spot may have some potential in a trump promotion, but not as long as the 10 is in dummy. Ducking the ace will also help to clarify the hand generally, as you will have a better idea of the layout of the hand based on declarer’s next play: whether or not the trump suit is broken or solid, where partner’s black-suit values lie, and so forth. At the table, declarer did in fact play a club to dummy’s king, then led the 10 of diamonds: queen from partner, king from declarer, ace from your hand, leaving the following: ♠ K8743 ♥ ----- ♦ ----- ♣ 72 ♠ 952 ♠ AQ10 ♥ ----- ♥ 62 ♦ 8 ♦ ----- ♣ 1085 ♣ J6 ♠ J6 ♥ ----- ♦ 972 ♣ AQ It is now easy for you to lead a spade, on which declarer plays low from dummy, and partner wins the queen. Partner plays a heart (alternatively, partner could have cashed a 2nd spade first), and declarer is cooked. At the table, declarer discarded her remaining spade loser, but this was easily countered with a discard from your hand. Partner, still on lead, continued with his last heart, and your 8 of diamonds is promoted to the setting trick. If declarer ruffs high, you simply discard; if declarer ruffs low, you overruff. Notice that if you had won the ace of diamonds on the first lead of the suit, the trump promotion would not have been achieved. Say you had chosen to win the 4th trick and then led a spade to partner, who could take two tricks in that suit with the ace and queen. The defense would then have been finished. A heart play from partner would have done no good, as declarer could ruff low, and if you overruffed with your 8, dummy would be able to capture that trick with the 10, which would still be unplayed at that point. Declarer would then simply get back to her hand and draw the remaining trumps with the king, making her contract.
MOYSIAN FIT by Stephen Rzewski vul: E-W dlr: South matchpoints North ♠ 83 ♥ J1097 ♦ AQ64 ♣ 632 West East ♠ AK1072 ♠ QJ654 ♥ K532 ♥ 86 ♦ 52 ♦ 93 ♣ 108 ♣ 9754 South ♠ 9 ♥ AQ4 ♦ KJ1087 ♣ AKQJ bidding: S W N E 1♦ 1♠ dbl 3♠ 4♣ P 4♦ P 4♥ P P P opening lead: ♠ A A major-suit game where declarer has only a 4-card trump suit opposite 3-card support is often referred to as a “Moysian fit”, named after Alphonse “Sonny” Moyse, a renowned player of the Culbertson era and editor of “The Bridge World” magazine during the 1950s-60s. Moyse was a strong advocate of this type of fit, although for most players, it is one to be avoided because of the paucity of trumps and the likelihood that the opponents’ holding will divide 4-2 or worse (the odds of a 3-3 division are only about 36%). Occasionally, though, it does prove to be the best contract, but delicate judgment is required. In this author’s experience, the most important points to consider when electing to go this route are: (1) the trump suit should be very strong, so that declarer can control its play effectively, and (2) if the opponents have a suit to lead which will force declarer to ruff, it helps greatly if there is shortness in that suit in the hand with the 3-card support, so that the ruff can be taken without reducing the 4-card length. Today’s hand occurred in a Sectional Open Pairs on Cape Cod some years ago. North’s double was “negative”, promising at least four hearts and enough in high-card values to make a noise. East’s 3♠ call was pre-emptive. Holding five trumps and two doubletons, he resisted the urge to bid 4♠ because of the unfavorable vulnerability. Had he done so, South would likely have doubled and set that contract two tricks to score +500, more than the value of a non-vulnerable game. After North showed a preference for diamonds over clubs, South tried 4♥, patterning out his shape as 1-3-5- 4. North knew that South had only three hearts, since he had not bid hearts at his second turn. Perhaps she should have pulled 4♥ to 5♦ with such weak trumps, but South probably wouldn’t have offered the contract unless he had strong hearts himself. Besides, the lure of achieving a superior matchpoint score was too tempting to resist, especially since few, if any players figured to be in the major-suit game. The defense started with the ace and king of spades, South taking the ruff in the short hand. Now came the tricky part: do you see how declarer played so as to bring in ten tricks…..? Obviously, in order to enjoy the side winners, declarer must draw some trumps. But if he plays the ace and queen, West will win the king and play a third spade. Now the ruff must be taken in the long hand, and at that point, West will have one more trump than dummy, and declarer will eventually lose control of the hand from repeated spade leads and go down. The key play that South must make is to start trumps with the queen, not the ace. If West wins and plays another spade, declarer can ruff with his remaining ace, then get to dummy with a diamond to play the J109 of hearts and draw the remaining trumps. At the table, West ducked the queen of hearts (best). But South now continued with the ace, then simply abandoned trumps and played minor-suit winners. West scored both his trumps, but whenever he ruffed in, dummy had the trump advantage, and thus declarer maintained control. South scored his ten tricks for +420, a cold matchpoint top, as most of the other pairs played the routine 5♦ for +400. The few who bid to 6♦, a reasonable contract which depends on the heart finesse, ended up with an unlucky down one.
TEST YOUR PLAY by Stephen Rzewski (from Mashpee game of 7/8/05, board #9; E-W changed to N-S for convenience) North ♠ A2 ♥ AQ98 ♦ 8632 ♣ 975 South ♠ Q75 ♥ K7 ♦ 54 ♣ AKQ1086 bidding: S W N E 1♣ 1♦ 1♥ P 3♣ P 3♦ P 4♣ P 5♣ (all pass) North felt he had enough to force to game opposite his partner’s jump rebid. His 3♦ call was intended as a probe for notrump, asking partner to bid 3NT with a diamond stop. When South couldn’t oblige, North opted for the eleven trick game. West leads the king of diamonds, East overtaking with the ace and leading back the jack. West in turns overtakes with the queen and continues with the 10, which you ruff. Decide on a line of play before reading the answer below. * * * * * * * The full deal: ♠ A2 ♥ AQ98 ♦ 8632 ♣ 975 ♠ J843 ♠ K1096 ♥ J65 ♥ 10432 ♦ KQ1097 ♦ AJ ♣ J ♣ 432 ♠ Q75 ♥ K7 ♦ 54 ♣ AKQ1086 Looking at just the N-S hands, there are a couple of very unlikely cases that might bring this contract home, such as a singleton king of spades or one opponent holding J10x of hearts, but your best chance is a squeeze, very much like the ones we have been illustrating in our most recent columns. There are actually two different squeeze chances, and one can in fact play the hand in such a way as to take both possibilities into account. The first chance requires that the king of spades be in the same hand as the one which holds the long hearts. This is the case that actually existed on the deal in question. The proper sequence of plays which will include all chances is to draw trump (three rounds required), play the ace of spades (Vienna Coup), lead a heart to the king and play off all your trumps. In the case of the actual deal above, the end position will be: ♠ ----- ♥ AQ9 ♦ 8 ♣ ----- ♠ K ♥ 1043 ♦ ----- ♣ ----- ♠ Q7 ♥ 7 ♦ ----- ♣ 8 South plays the last trump, discarding the diamond from dummy, and East has no safe discard. He can’t pitch a heart, or else the small heart in dummy will be good, so he should throw the king of spades, in the hope that his partner holds the queen. South now cashes the good queen of spades and the two high hearts. Because the two menaces (the 4th heart and the queen of spades) are divided between the N-S hands, the squeeze is said to be “automatic”, meaning that it could operate against either opponent. This can be illustrated by interchanging the E-W hands and making the same sequence of plays. The second chance is a possible heart-diamond squeeze against West. If one were to change the West hand slightly by giving him one more heart and one less spade, so that he holds, for example: ♠ J84 ♥ J653 ♦ KQ1097 ♣ J then in addition to the chances discussed above, West could be squeezed in the red suits. Dummy’s small spade should be pitched early and the 4th diamond should be retained, bringing about this hypothetical end position: ♠ ----- ♥ AQ9 ♦ 8 ♣ ----- ♠ ----- ♥ J65 ♦ 9 ♣ ----- ♠ Q7 ♥ 7 ♦ ----- ♣ 6 South, who has the lead, plays his last trump, and West is doomed. If he throws his last diamond, dummy’s 8 will become a winner, and if he throws a heart, the now useless 8 of diamonds will be pitched, and the hearts will run. This squeeze is described as “positional” (as opposed to automatic), because the two menaces are in the same hand (North) and will only work in this case against the West position, the opponent who has to discard before the hand with the menaces. (Many thanks to my good friend, Michael Klein, who saw the chance for the red-suit squeeze, which I had missed the first time I wrote this article).
VIENNA COUP by Stephen Rzewski North ♠ A6 ♥ A5 ♦ AQ108 ♣ AKQJ9 West East ♠ J1092 ♠ K54 ♥ J1086 ♥ K42 ♦ 642 ♦ J973 ♣ 85 ♣ 1043 South ♠ Q873 ♥ Q973 ♦ K5 ♣ 762 bidding: N E S W 2♣ P 2♦ P 3♣ P 3NT P 6NT (all pass) opening lead: ♠ J In today’s deal, which came up in a local club game on Cape Cod, South found himself declaring 6NT on the auction shown. Since an artificial 3♦ call was available to South at his second turn, which would have been a “2nd negative” showing a very weak hand, 3NT promised a smattering of high-card values, which North hoped was enough to produce twelve tricks. Alternatively, North could have continued with 4♦, which might have resulted in playing 6♣ from his side. Although a shaky contract, it is makeable on the lie of the cards by leading up to one of the major- suit queens, establishing a discard for the other major-suit loser. The 10 of diamonds can be ruffed in dummy. Playing instead in the notrump slam, South ducked the spade lead in dummy. East took his king and returned a spade. Declarer ran dummy’s five clubs, then led a diamond to his king in order to cash the queen of spades. On this trick, declarer discarded dummy’s 5 of hearts, and correspondingly, East held onto all his diamonds to keep equal length with dummy and pitched a heart, baring down to the singleton king. The ace of hearts then dropped the king and established South’s queen, but declarer had no way to get back to his hand to cash it. Locked in dummy in the end, declarer had to concede a diamond to East to go down one. Declarer could have succeeded by playing dummy’s ace of hearts before leading a diamond to his king. The end position would then have been: ♠ ----- ♥ 5 ♦ AQ10 ♣ ----- ♠ ----- ♥ K ♦ J97 ♣ ----- ♠ Q8 ♥ Q ♦ 5 ♣ ----- Declarer plays his queen of spades, discarding dummy’s 5 of hearts, and East is squeezed. If he discards a diamond, dummy’s 4th diamond will become a winner, so his best chance is to throw the king of hearts and hope that his partner holds the queen and not declarer. With the lead in his hand, declarer is in position to cash the now good queen and then take the two diamond winners. The early play of the ace of hearts is known as a “Vienna Coup”. What one essentially does by making this play is establish a winner in a defender’s hand, then squeeze the player out of that winner later in the play. One curious angle about this particular deal is that if West had for some reason decided to lead a heart instead of a spade, declarer could make the identical series of plays in different suits. The heart lead would be ducked to East’s king, establishing South’s queen. Then during the middle of the hand, declarer would play the ace of spades (Vienna Coup), establishing East’s king, then squeeze him out of that card in the end game with the good queen of hearts!
POWER OF 7 by Stephen Rzewski North ♠ A9 ♥ AKJ ♦ QJ73 ♣ K1083 West East ♠ K863 ♠ Q1052 ♥ 432 ♥ Q1098 ♦ 9865 ♦ ----- ♣ 42 ♣ QJ976 South ♠ J74 ♥ 765 ♦ AK1042 ♣ A5 bidding: S W N E 1♦ P 2♦ P 3♦ P 6♦ (all pass) opening lead: ♥ 4 Looking at all four hands in the layout of today’s deal, can you tell which card in the South hand provided declarer with the 12th trick he needed to make his contract? The bidding warrants some explanation. North’s 2♦ call was an “inverted” raise, promising at least four diamonds in support, invitational or better values, and was forcing for at least one round. South’s 3♦ call limited his hand, showing minimal opening values and probably no stop for notrump in either hearts or spades (he would likely have cue-bid 2♥ or 2♠ with such a feature as a probe for notrump, or might have rebid 2NT with both majors stopped). North, with good trumps and a hand rich in controls, decided to gamble on the diamond slam. South called for dummy’s ace of hearts at trick #1, East signaling positively with the 10. The queen of diamonds was played at the second trick, East showing out. Declarer had to ruff a spade before drawing all the trumps, so he played dummy’s ace of spades, then a low spade, won by West, who played a second heart. On the surface, it looks like declarer’s only reasonable chance is to finesse the jack of hearts. But South felt sure that East’s encouraging signal at the first trick was honest, and that West was unlikely to have made the opening lead from the queen against a slam. So he played dummy’s king, hoping that the queen might come down. When it didn’t, declarer could only continue to play the hand out, as follows: a low diamond to the 10, a third spade, ruffed in dummy, then a diamond to the ace and king, drawing the last of West’s trumps, leaving: ♠ ----- ♥ J ♦ ----- ♣ K108 ♠ ----- ♥ Q ♦ ----- ♣ QJ9 ♠ ----- ♥ 7 ♦ 2 ♣ A5 During the play of the trumps, a club was discarded from dummy, and the East hand had to sluff down to the queen of hearts and three clubs as shown. South remembered that East had followed hearts first with the 10 and 8, then had discarded the 9, leaving the queen as the only outstanding card in the suit higher than his 7. So he played his last trump, discarding the jack of hearts from dummy, and East was stuck. To throw a club was suicide, so he discarded the queen of hearts, in the hope that his partner held the critical 7-spot. Unfortunately for him, South held that card, and after playing the king and ace of clubs, cashed it for his 12th trick and brought in the slam. (Thanks to Tony Petronella for providing this deal).
SIMPLE SQUEEZE by Stephen Rzewski IMPs ` North vul: both ♠ AK106 ♥ A1032 ♦ 75 ♣ Q42 West East ♠ J742 ♠ 53 ♥ 7 ♥ 94 ♦ Q943 ♦ AJ1082 ♣ K1063 ♣ J975 South ♠ Q98 ♥ KQJ865 ♦ K6 ♣ A8 bidding: S W N E 1♥ P 2NT P 3♥ P 3♠ P 4♣ P 4♠ P 6♥ P P P Opening lead: ♦3 Today’s hand occurred in a Swiss team match at the recent Regional tournament in Falmouth. Swiss and knockout team events differ significantly in both format and method of scoring from the matchpoint pairs games that are typically held at local clubs. In Swiss events, a team of four players plays a series of matches, usually seven boards each in length, against other teams. Scoring is done by a method called “IMPs” (short for International Match Points), which gives a weighted importance to large differences in the scores that occur on particular hands, called “swings”. Such swings occur when a team bids and makes a game or slam not bid or made at the other table, or by making a doubled contract, or by inflicting a substantial penalty. At one table, N-S reasonably stopped in game on the above hand, but at the other, a slam was bid on the auction shown. North’s 2NT call was “Jacoby 2NT”, which showed a game-forcing raise of hearts. South’s 3♥ bid denied a singleton or void, but showed substantial extra values. The ensuing 3♠ and 4♣ calls promised the ace of the suit bid. At this point, North probably should have signed off in 4♥, but elected to bid 4♠. This call denied the ace of diamonds and promised the king of spades, but because the bid goes beyond game, the action really implies more values than he holds. Thus one can not fault South, holding the king of diamonds, for bidding the pushy slam. The contract is decidedly anti-percentage, since it requires the ace of diamonds to be onside, as well as avoiding the loss of a club trick. West led a diamond, the unbid suit, to East’s ace, which solved one problem for declarer. A diamond was continued to South, who drew two rounds of trumps and pondered a way of disposing of his club loser. Other than an improbable singleton king of that suit, the obvious place was to try to run four spade tricks. So South played a spade to the ace, then another to his queen, then a third round toward dummy. Both opponents followed all the way with spot cards. South now paused for a full minute, trying to decide whether to finesse dummy’s ten or play for the drop of the jack by going up with the king. A lot of IMPs were at stake on this decision. I’m actually not going to tell you whether declarer got it right, because the point of this hand is that declarer did not have to face this guess. Suppose that instead of playing spades early, declarer played off the ace of clubs and all his trumps, ending up in this position: ♠ AK106 ♥ ----- ♦ ----- ♣ Q ♠ J742 ♥ ----- ♦ ----- ♣ K ♠ Q98 ♥ 5 ♦ ----- ♣ 8 At this point, South plays his last trump, and West is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If he discards the king of clubs, dummy’s queen will be good, and if he throws a spade instead, the queen of clubs will be pitched, and the spade suit will run for four tricks without declarer having to make any guess. This play is called a “simple” squeeze: simple, because it operates against one opponent who guards two suits, and who is forced to make a discard which will establish a winner for declarer. The cards which have the potential to become winners are referred to as “menaces”: here they are the 4th spade and the queen of clubs. For the squeeze to be operative when both menaces are in the same hand, the opponent guarding the two suits must have to discard before the hand with the menaces. Playing the hand in this way gives declarer an extra chance, since if the actual position did not exist, declarer would have to make the same play in spades as before and be no worse off. Curiously, the squeeze will often work even if declarer does not understand its mechanics, provided that he defers playing the spades and plays off all his winners first, discarding the queen of clubs unless the king appears beforehand. So even if you don’t entirely understand the principle, when you have all the remaining tricks but one, play off all your winners before attacking the critical suit. Sometimes miracles happen.
TRUMP COUP by Stephen Rzewski dlr: South North IMPs ♠ KJ ♥ KJ10762 ♦ QJ4 ♣ J10 West East ♠ 842 ♠ A763 ♥ Q983 ♥ 4 ♦ 1062 ♦ 975 ♣ AK8 ♣ 97632 South ♠ Q1095 ♥ A5 ♦ AK83 ♣ Q54 bidding: S W N E 1NT P 2♦ P 2♥ P 4♥ (all pass) opening lead: ♣A One of the qualities unique to the trump suit in bridge is that under certain circumstances it is possible to take a finesse without actually leading a trump card. This somewhat infrequent play, called a “trump coup”, requires imagination, careful planning, entries, favorable distribution, and timing. In today’s hand, taken from a Swiss team event in a Sectional tournament, N-S were playing Jacoby transfer bids. North’s 2♦ call promised five or more hearts and requested South to bid the suit. This treatment offers greater bidding flexibility than natural methods and sometimes creates an advantage in having the strong hand be declarer, although not in this particular case. West started with the ace and king of clubs, East playing low-high to suggest a switch. At trick #3, West played a spade to dummy’s king and East’s ace, giving the defense their “book”. East exited with a spade. South had to avoid the loss of a trump trick in order to make his contract. With five trumps out including the queen, the odds favor taking a finesse as opposed to simply playing off the two top honors and hoping for the queen to drop. South could play either opponent for Qxx, but he decided that the percentages favored taking the finesse through West, for two reasons: (1) finessing East would mean leading the jack from dummy and passing it on the first lead of the suit, which might lose to a possible singleton queen in the West hand, and (2) it might be additionally possible to pick up Qxxx in the West hand via a trump coup, as long as West was not short in diamonds. So thinking, South won the queen of spades in his hand at trick #4, then used the entry to lead the good queen of clubs and ruff that card in dummy. He then led a heart to the ace, followed by a low heart, putting in dummy’s 10. When East showed out, South’s foresight was about to be rewarded. He next led a diamond to the ace, then a third spade, again ruffing a good card in dummy and reducing dummy’s trumps to K-J, the same length as West’s Q-x. Then a diamond was played to the king. As long as West had to follow to this trick, South was home, in the following position: ♠ --- ♥ KJ ♦ Q ♣ --- ♠ --- ♥ Q9 ♦ 10 ♣ --- ♠ 10 ♥ --- ♦ 83 ♣ --- South did not have a trump card to lead from his hand, but it did not matter. He led the good 10 of spades. If West ruffed, dummy would overruff and draw his last trump; so West discarded his diamond. South countered by also discarding dummy’s queen of diamonds. With the lead still in the South hand at trick #12, West had to play a trump before dummy, and the K-J took the last two tricks. To execute this play, one has to reduce the trumps in the long hand until the length matches that of the defender. This requires sufficient entries to the opposite hand, and sometimes cards that would normally win tricks themselves have to be ruffed. Finally, the sequence of plays requires that the lead come through the defender’s trump holding at the right moment, when that hand has been reduced to nothing but trumps. In this case, the lead must come from the South hand at the penultimate trick.
CROCODILE COUP by Stephen Rzewski vul: N-S dlr: S matchpoints North ♠ 73 ♥ 8543 ♦ KJ83 ♣ 982 West East ♠ KJ96 ♠ Q10 ♥ J10 ♥ A972 ♦ Q95 ♦ 7 ♣ AJ103 ♣ KQ7654 South ♠ A8542 ♥ KQ6 ♦ A10642 ♣ ---- bidding: S W N E 1♠ P P 2♣ 2♦ 3♣ 3♦ (all pass) opening lead: ♥J In today’s hand, from a recent session at the Puritan Club in Braintree, E-W missed the optimal boat when they failed to bid on to 4C, which they might have been allowed to play. Only a few pairs did so, however, so they could still recover a reasonable number of matchpoints if they could defeat the N-S contract. The heart lead was taken by East, who switched to a club, declarer ruffing. South was a believer in “getting the kids off the street” quickly, so she drew trump by playing off the ace and king of diamonds. She then led to her ace of spades, followed by a low spade from her hand, in the following position: ♠ 7 ♥ 854 ♦ J8 ♣ 98 ♠ KJ9 ♠ Q ♥10 ♥ 972 ♦ Q ♦ ----- ♣ AJ10 ♣ Q765 ♠ 8542 ♥ KQ ♦ 106 ♣ ----- West had to be on his toes when South led a spade from her hand at this point. If he inattentively follows with the 9, East will win the queen. Whether East returns a heart or a club, South has sufficient entries to her hand to ruff two spades in dummy and establish the 5th spade. West can ruff in at some point with the high trump, but declarer will end up with ten tricks. West, however, was paying attention. He saw his partner play the ten of spades on the first lead of the suit, and figured that South had no reason not to finesse the queen of spades had she held that card. So he opened his jaws wide to play the king and swallow his partner’s queen. This particular play is colorfully referred to as the “crocodile coup”. He was now able to draw some trumps himself with the queen of diamonds, then tap declarer out of trump in her hand with another club. South could take her two high hearts and the last trump in dummy, but that was it. Down one. Of course, South could have made those ten tricks by the simple expedient play of ducking a spade before playing the ace and king of diamonds.
(Note: today's hand is on a more basic/intermediate level than most of the articles presented on this site) THIS IS A HOLD-UP by Stephen Rzewski North ♠ J7 ♥ K64 ♦ KQJ42 ♣ 532 West East ♠ K9854 ♠ Q103 ♥ 9872 ♥ A103 ♦ 85 ♦ A96 ♣ 76 ♣ J1098 South ♠ A62 ♥ QJ5 ♦ 1073 ♣ AKQ4 bidding: S W N E 1NT P 3NT (all pass) opening lead: ♠ 5 A hold-up in bridge is a deliberate refusal of a player to win immediately a trick in a suit being attacked by the opponents. The usual intent behind the play is to attempt to exhaust one of the opponents’ hands of all cards in that suit, thus breaking or limiting communication between the two enemy hands later in the play. In today’s hand, South called for dummy’s jack of spades at first play with the hope that West had led from a holding including the king and queen. When East covered, South’s chances dimmed considerably. Normally, when the opponents attack your weakest suit against a notrump contract, one hopes for an even (4-4) division, which would translate into fewer potential winners for the defense. However, with two aces outstanding, that would mean South would be set automatically, since the defense would always take those two tricks plus three established spades. So South had to assume that the spades would divide unevenly, and that the hand with the greater length would have neither of the red aces, thus not being able to obtain the lead and cash the long spades. Not a great chance, but better than none. So South “held up” his ace of spades on the first trick, and did so again when East continued the suit. When South finally won the ace on the third trick, East was now out of spades. When East regained the lead later in the play, he would be unable to lead a spade to his partner, and as long as West did not have a red ace, the long spades may die on the vine. Declarer started about the business of establishing his red-suit winners and led a diamond. Now it is the defense’s turn to apply the same principle. In order to deprive declarer of at least some of the tricks that dummy might produce, East must hold up his ace of diamonds. It is essential that he win the ace at the precise moment when South plays his last diamond. West, at this point feeling cut off and having little interest in the remaining play, might be tempted to lean back in his chair and take a short nap. He has, however, an important task to contribute to the defense: he must give honest count in the diamond suit by playing first the 8, then the 5, thus informing his partner that he holds an even number of cards in the suit. East will then know that South started with three diamonds and will hold up the ace until the third round. On another day, if West held three diamonds, he should first play low, then high, to show an odd number. In that event, East would know declarer held a doubleton and would win the second round. After winning the third diamond, East exits with the jack of clubs. South must continue to assume that East has the ace of hearts, lest West get in to cash the spades. The bad news in that case is that East will hold the ace over dummy’s king, the only card that can give declarer access to dummy’s diamonds. So South tries to create an entry to dummy by leading the queen of hearts from his hand. East should understand what declarer is up to and, once again, must exercise patience by holding up his ace of hearts. When South continues with the jack of hearts, East must hold up again. With nothing else to try, South leads the rest of his top clubs, hoping for a 3-3 split. No such luck, down one. This would be a normal result for this hand, if both sides have played optimally. Although hold-up plays pertain most often to notrump, occasionally the opportunity for such plays may occur in suited contracts. For example, say a defender, having overcalled during the auction, leads the king of that suit in which you the declarer hold A-x-x opposite dummy’s x-x-x. If you can be reasonably sure that your right-hand opponent has a doubleton, it may be good strategy to hold up the ace on the first round and win the second. If you can then control the play such that only RHO gains the lead, that defender may be out of that particular suit and unable to lead one to his partner. Thus, it may be possible to prevent the defenders from cashing their second winner in the suit.