We missed the club last week as we were playing in the EBU Congress in Malta. It was our first time at an overseas event run by the English Bridge Union. The week was a good combination of bridge and leisure time and the weather was warm and the wine excellent and everyone had a good time.
One hand caught my attention as it quite fascinating and requires a very difficult defence.You hold as West -
The bidding starting by South on your right, with your side passing throughout goes -
1C - 1H - 2NT(17-18) - 6NT
The doesn't seem to be any reason to lead the suits bid by the opponents or a spade so you start with the D10 and see dummy holding -
Dummy is a surprise as a slam in clubs is more obvious especially as the combined holding is only 30 or 31 points which is not usually sufficient for a slam in NTs.
Good defence is about counting - suit lengths, points and tricks, so start watching and counting. The first good news is that declarer is thinking so it seems as if the contract is not laydown. Imagine declarer could have 5 tricks in clubs, 4 in diamonds, and 3 in hearts whilst we have the A&K of spades, but not this time.
Trick 1 goes to the 4 from dummy, the 7 from partner and is won by DQ. Start counting.
At trick 2 declarer cashes the CA and partner follows. Then a club to the jack in dummy with partner discarding the 2 of spades - keep counting as you should know the shape of all the hands by now.
Now a spade is led from dummy to declarers Q. As your SA is doubleton, and the 10 may prove important you win the trick and need to decide what to play next. Make your decision before reading on. Your hand is now -
You should have worked out that declarer has a 4144 shape with the CAQ, SKQ and DQ and 4 or 5 additional points, mainly in diamonds. It is even possible that partner has the DA waiting to be cashed. If declarer has the DA we can count 1 trick in spades, 3 in hearts, 2 in diamonds and 5 in clubs. This makes a total of 11 so we need partner to have both missing jacks to beat the contract.
In fact this is the case, so declarer has only 11 tricks so we don't need to worry, or do we? Think about it.
When declarer has all the tricks except one there is always the possibility of a squeeze. On this hand only partner can stop the spades whilst you have the hearts so what is the problem? Firstly the threats in the majors are the lengths which is always bad. Secondly there are all the elements for a double squeeze where one defender stops one suit, the other defender stops a second suit so that neither can stop the third suit which in this case is diamonds. How do we cope with this? It would be annoying to let the wrong slam make on a lucky lie.
Well the correct defence to the threat of a double squeeze is to remove the entry to the suit which both defenders are guarding, which is diamonds. So we need to play a diamond and the contract goes down. Try playing the cards out on any other return. Declarer cashes the SK and then runs the hearts and clubs from dummy and you will find that both defenders have to discard diamonds to keep the guards in the majors and the last trick is won by the D5.
So we return a diamond and gain a huge swing when our teammates bid and make 6C a much more sensible contract. Well yes and no! At the table West played the normal card from 94 remaining, which is the 9. Now West cannot stop the diamonds as declarter's D5 is too big and East was squeezed between diamonds and spades so the contract made despite all your efforts, talking about falling at the last fence!