Ted's Bridge World Dante's Infernal

Tuesday Madness #1

The November 8 evening duplicate produced two rare coups.  This was Board #8 (with the arrow turned for convenience, as usual):

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Opening lead: 7

North's opening Notrump was 10-12 hcp.  Why east failed to show both majors remains a mystery, as east-west could have made 5 against any defense.  Albeit too late to declare the hand, west's singleton lead left the defense in position to take the first seven tricks, including a pair of heart ruffs, for down three.  But east had other ideas, as he ducked the opening lead to south's jack.

Declarer cashed the ace and king of clubs, then led a heart from dummy to east's ace.  Noting his partner's discard of the eight of spades, he dutifully shifted to the queen of that suit, taken by the ace.  West cashed the high trump, then found herself in a quandary.

The location of the diamond ace was clear from the bidding.  She was loath to break that suit, however, in case declarer held the jack.  Perhaps she also recognized that, unless her side had a diamond loser, game for her side was a sure thing.  Finally, west settled upon a spade return, presuming that two diamond tricks would be forthcoming later; at least the contract would be defeated that way.

Declarer, however, had a different plan.  He won the spade king, discarding a diamond, ruffed dummy's remaining spade, then cashed a club, leaving this position:

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South played off his last trump, discarding the diamond nine, and east was caught in a Stepping-Stone Squeeze.  A heart discard would enable declarer to overtake the heart queen and cash the nine, so east parted with the jack of diamonds.  But declarer was prepared for this.  He cashed the heart queen, then led a diamond to east's ace, using that unfortunate's hand as a "stepping stone" to dummy's king of hearts.  Making 3 a result that would be considered preposterous anywhere but at Dante's Infernal.

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Board #7 featured what we affectionately call a "Geza" hand, in honor of Géza Ottlik who, through his writings, has awakened the expert bridge world to all sorts of exotic and hitherto unknown card-positions.  This offering, albeit relatively tame by Geza standards, features a "non-material" three-suit squeeze on the west hand.

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Opening lead: SQ

North-South wrong-sided this one, as 3NT by north was unbeatable.  I know more than one local player who would have bid a "tactical" 3NT directly over 1 right or wrong; it would have worked out on this occasion.  In any case, west opted to forgo the normal heart lead (the only way to defeat this contract legitimately), opting for his stronger suit despite its having been bid on his left.  Although it didn't matter, declarer chose to win the first trick with dummy's ace.  He cashed the diamond king, then ran that suit with the aid of a finesse.

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Let us digress for a moment, and say that west decides to discard two hearts and a spade (letting go a third heart would enable declarer to win three tricks in that suit easily; in fact, even the second heart pitch was fatal).  Now declarer could simply play on hearts, setting up a second trick there, as the defenders lack enough winners to defeat the contract.  A more elegant ending, however, would be for declarer to exit with his last spade.  Should east win the king, then he could do no better than to play back a spade, setting up dummy's nine.  (Do you think that a club return would be better?  See below.)  Instead, if west wins the second spade, then playing on either major suit would help to set up an extra trick there.  Let's say that he tries the effect of leading the club deuce instead.  As his hand would now be effectively out of the play, this would set up a veritable rhapsody of endplays upon his partner, as follows:

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West, however, was made of sterner stuff.  Having brilliantly envisioned all the ramifications of throwing away his long spade — at trick five, no less — he chose instead to part with the club deuce on the last diamond lead.  This seemingly innocuous play, he would learn, was not.

Declarer continued with a spade exit as before.  The defenders cashed three tricks in that suit, then played on hearts in this ending:

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Declarer ducked the heart lead to his ace, then played a heart back.  East was forced to advance a club honor, which ran to dummy's ace.  Then the lead of the club ten smothered west's nine.  Alternatively, west could have played on clubs himself, but to no avail.  Dummy would cover west's lead, forcing east's jack; then that defender subsequently would be compelled to sacrifice his club queen into dummy's tenace.

It seems that west was, in fact, squeezed at trick five in a suit that seemingly had no material value.  Hence the term, "non-material squeeze".

Géza, we love you.

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