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Bridge Over the Summer (11/13/02)


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Bridge Over the Summer
I played a lot of bridge this summer, in Hong Kong as well as in Macau and Thailand. There were many interesting and fun deals which I could report.
One such hand was holding SAJ Hx DAKQJTxxxxx C- first seat both vul. I opened 6D and it went pass pass double. Partner came down with nothing... except 2 trumps and a singleton spade! The opponents were actually cold for 6S. One story I heard about this hand was that a Hong Kong player balanced with 6S holding SKQT9xx HAxx D- CAxxx after his LHO opened 6D in first seat.
The following deal, however, is the one I remember most from the summer.

S  K9x
D  AQxx
C  AQxx

S  Jxx
H  Ax
D  Kxx
C  KJTxx

I was declarer with the bottom hand in the pretty hopeless contract of 6C. It got a little better after the opening lead of the S4 (the S3 is the only missing lower spade). I ducked this in dummy and RHO won with the SA. Now RHO shifted to a small heart.

Here was the first decision. The first option is to run the heart to dummy, and if it wins, you will make it if diamonds are 3-3 or if there's a spade-diamond squeeze. The second option is to hop up with the HA and play for diamonds to be 3-3 followed by a spade-heart squeeze. It basically comes down to, is the HK onside?

By some feel of table presence, or just sheer luck, I ran it to dummy and I won the trick. I next followed with four rounds of trumps (they were 2-2), and a heart back to my hand. The way the opponents have discarded, it seems fairly certain that LHO started with 4 hearts. Now what? Here was the position:

S  K9
D  AQxx

S  Jx
D  Kxx
C  x

Another decision to be made. I saw that I could pull a simple Vienna Coup by crossing to dummy with a diamond honor and cashing the SK, getting back to my hand with the DK to play the last trump as the squeeze card against LHO. Another line of play I saw was to run the SJ, hoping to pin the ST in RHO's hand. Let's start by counting out the hand. Assuming LHO has 4 hearts and 2 clubs, if he has 4 spades the diamonds are breaking. If he has 3 spades then I can squeeze him with the Vienna Coup. If he has 5 spades (the opponents were playing 4th best leads and the S3 was still missing) then I need to pin the ST. Which was more likely? Well, if RHO did have SATxx or SAxxx, then he could have defeated me by playing low to the first trick, as the count will not be rectified. If RHO began with SAT, then he must play the SA. So in the end, I played to pin the ST and went down when LHO did start with 3 spades. RHO made a big mistake in hopping up with the SA, but I didn't make him pay for it.

Only when I looked at the hand again later that night did I realize the correct solution. Because we know the SQ is with West, there was no need for a Vienna Coup in the above position. There would have been a positional squeeze against West anyway. Therefore, the way to play the hand is to cash 3 rounds of diamonds ending in hand. If they break, you're home. If LHO shows up with 4 diamonds, then you know you have him squeezed by playing the last trump as he must discard before dummy. If LHO shows up with 2 diamonds, there is no squeeze and the only hope is to pin the ST (much more likely since now LHO probably has 5 spades).