Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More squeezing, follow-up

Following up on this post from last month.
A 6 5
7 6 4
A Q J 9 5 2
Q J 8 7 10 4 3
K J 10 9 8 3 2
8 7 3 10 4
7 6 Q J 10 3 2
K 9 2
A Q 5
K 6
A 9 8 5 4

Chris showed me this deal. South opens a 14-16 1NT and winds up declaring 6D on a trump lead. What is supposed to happen?

At the table, declarer won in dummy, unblocked clubs, crossed in trumps to ruff a club and drew trumps. East had a problem and discarded a heart. At which point, declarer lost a heart finesse but eventually got home on a double squeeze. Could the defense have done better?

Let's wait on East's pitch, and assume that declarer pitches a spade on the 3rd trump, then crosses in spades to cash and ruff a club (finding out what's happening in that suit) and plays his last trump in this position:

A 6
7 4
A Q 5

Note that the H6 has been unblocked.

East must keep a club, so Declarer will pitch his last on the D2. In the 4 card ending, the opponents have 7 major suit cards. Declarer would like to take a marked endplay if possible, or a heart finesse followed by an attempted squeeze (which may have already developed). Say there are only 3 hearts outstanding -- declarer can take the finesse and either win it or establish a long heart (ignoring, for now, the possibility that West kept 3 hearts and East none). If there are 5 hearts (and thus only 2 spades) then declarer might as well play SA, maybe establishing a trick, maybe establishing an endplay, and otherwise playing for the HK (now blank) to be onside. [Note that the defense would prevail if East kept all his spades and declarer played this way -- this requires an immediate heart pitch, though, which did happen but declarer played along different lines.]

If the defense keeps 4 hearts, it's kind of interesting. If they're 2-2, then in practice declarer can't go wrong -- SA and a spade will work, or a losing heart finesse followed by spades splitting will work. So what if East keeps 3 hearts and West stiffs his K? Then the HJT9 will all have been pitched and declarer can play the 6 to the Q. When this loses, a spade will come back, East will show out, and hooking the 5 will be marked. If West keeps 3 hearts, again East had to pitch hearts immediately (to keep a spade guard). Now declarer (if he plays in this counterfactual way) has to guess, but could go right: cash SA, then play a low heart and duck it.

In practice, the key is how likely declarer thinks East is to pitch a heart on the 3rd trump from an original 2=4=2=5.

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