A failed squeeze and a birthday bottom!
by Rick Hanley
This intriguing hand was played at the Ipswich and Kesgrave club on 20 February, which also happens to be my birthday. It raised so many issues that, for the second year running I spent the birthday cash that I had accumulated earlier in the day asking US expert Marty Bergen (www.martybergen.com) to comment on the events that occurred at my table.
Vulnerable against Non-Vulnerable, I picked up:
♠ Q8643 ♥ - ♦ AK8532 ♣ A10
RHO started things off by passing. I bid a diamond and my partner bid 3NT. RHO now bid 4♥! Enquiries revealed that he did not play weak 2s so presumably this was a belated expression of a hand with six hearts and less than opening values. I passed and partner bid 5♦. Feeling that 5♦ would generate a poor score if 3NT was making, I bid 6♦ and all passed. Dummy contained:
♠ K92 ♥ AJ ♦ Q1076 ♣ KQ86
Marty Bergen on the bidding:
“The immediate 3NT is not clear with responder’s hand, but its definitely OK, especially at pairs, to protect the ♥ tenace.
I agree with your forcing pass of 4♥.
If partner then doubled, I would not pass.
The actual 5♦ bid was questionable, especially at pairs. Responder definitely expected to make 3NT with his max + ♦ fit, and since he was sensibly not going to double, he could not afford to end in 5♦. At pairs, after 4♥ P P, I definitely would have bid 4NT (to play).
I agree 100% with 6♦.”
Dummy looked promising and, yes, 3NT would produce a better score than 5♦.
The Q♥ was led, won in dummy and trumps were drawn in 3 rounds (RHO was void). There are 11 tricks available (6 diamonds, 3 clubs, 1 heart and 1 spade). Where is the 12th coming from? How would you plan the play? Decide before reading on.
- A club finesse would fail because LHO holds J♣.
- RHO is marked with seven cards in the black suits. Presumably he holds A♠ for his bid. If he holds just two spades in total, then one can lead a spade from dummy to the Queen and then duck a low spade to his Ace. But how likely is it that RHO holds five clubs and only two spades? It must be less than 50%.
- So, I tried a different line (an automatic squeeze in the black suits) that required RHO to hold four clubs and three spades. At this point, you might find it useful to use the Play it again facility that is available on many club websites. It allows you to replay any board by playing the cards from all four hands. Go to the Ipswich & Kesgrave website and locate board 25 from the 20 February session (I sat east). Click on Play it again and then click on 6♦ by East as the contract. You can now follow the line I describe below.
I played a spade to the K♠ and RHO’s A♠. He returned a spade to my Q♠ (LHO played a low spade, then J♠). I then cashed the A♣ and ran the diamonds discarding the remaining spade and heart from dummy. My expectation was that RHO would be forced to discard either the winning spade or his fourth club on the final diamond. But alas, it was LHO who held the winning spade so the squeeze never materialised. Against the odds, RHO did indeed hold two spades and five clubs. So, playing RHO for Ax in spades would have worked.
RHO’s hand was:
♠ Ax ♥ K97652 ♥ - ♣ 97543
♠ J10x ♥ Qxxxx ♦ Jxx ♣ Jx
RHO’s 4♥ bid had earnt him an outright top and given me a bottom. Was I unlucky or did a take the wrong line?
Marty Bergen on the play:
“You were unlucky, but you missed a better alternative. When you find out what it is I predict you will kick youself.
After the not stupid but, on this hand, potentially fatal ♥ Q lead, you had a successful squeeze regardless of whether RHO held Axx or Ax of spades. I'm not sure of the technical name for it. I would call it a 3-suit squeeze without the count”.
Once again, the Play it again facility allows you to follow Marty’s account trick -by-trick to see in detail how an elegant endplay unfolds when RHO holds two spades.
Following Q♥ lead:
“Trick 1: Win A♥ pitching a spade.
Tricks 2-4: Draw three rounds of trumps ending in dummy.
Trick 5: Play a spade to your queen
Tricks 6: Cash a diamond from your hand.
Tricks 7: Cash a diamond from your hand. Discard ♠9 from dummy.
Here will be the 6-card end position:
♣ A 10
♣ K Q 8 x
RHO must keep: four clubs, heart king + spade ace and was triple-squeezed at trick 7. If RHO began with two spades, as was the case in the actual layout, he would have discarded a club at trick 7.
Trick 8 and 9: You play A and ♣10 winning the second club on table.
Trick 10 You now ruff a heart to get back to hand.
Trick 11: Lead a spade.
RHO must win the A♠ but is endplayed and must lead towards dummy’s Q-8♣ from his 9-7♣.”
Play it again means you can see for yourself that the 3-way squeeze would, crucially, also have been successful even if RHO had held three spades:
“If RHO had begun with 3 spades, he must discard a spade at trick 7. At trick 8, you play a spade to the K and ace, meaning that your 8S has become your 12th trick.”
Am I 'kicking myself ' for not spotting this line? Marty obviously thinks I am a better player than I really am. I have the feeling that if this 3-way squeeze was executed at the world championship, the vugraph commentators on BBO would be in raptures.
Finally, you might like to consider Marty’s suggestions for how to bid RHO’s hand:
“I would open with 4♥ . Next best is 3♥, then 2♥. After the initial pass, 4♥ is clear-cut over 3NT.”