Weekly bridge column


                                     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.

Weekly bridge column


                                    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.

Weekly bridge column

				       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.

Weekly bridge column (revised 7/19/05)


                                    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).

Weekly bridge column


                                       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!

Weekly bridge column


                                       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).

Weekly bridge column


                                      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.

Weekly bridge column


				      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.

Weekly bridge column


				       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.

Weekly bridge column


(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.