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An Ace Too Few

East Deals
N-S Vul
A K J 10 8 7 6 3
4 3
K 7 3
K Q 10 8 7 2
A K J 5
West North East South
Pass 1
1 NT Dbl Pass Pass
2 4 4 NT? Dbl
5 Pass Pass Dbl
Pass 5 Pass 7 NT
Pass Pass Dbl All Pass

The East/West pair were clearly having some fun in this auction.
West, perhaps thinking his partner's double was lead directional, led the 2. What do you do?
If you guess spades, then you appear to have thirteen tricks - eight spades, two clubs and three diamonds. But wait, the spade lead has killed your only entry to the K. How are you going to work your way around that?
If East has the Q, you can try a position squeeze against him in hearts and clubs, but it fails because there is no way to get off dummy in clubs.
Perhaps a double squeeze? The position is wrong for that, unless East has all the hearts and your small hearts in dummy are a threat. You run the spades, pitching six hearts and a club at this position:
4 3
K 7 3
x x
Q x x
x x x
Crossing to the A, you cash two clubs, pitching a heart and... As you can see, you have to decide before East does on the second club, so this squeeze fails.
Is there another line? Even if East does have the Q, you can't squeeze him because the entry position is all wrong.
Well, what if East alone was guarding the diamonds - either holding J-10-9-8 or six of them? That wouldn't be inconsistent, on the bidding. Then on the run of the spades, you pitch five hearts and two spades to reach this end position:
4 3
K 7 3
5 2
Q x x
J 10 9
You cross to the A and play the top clubs, and East is caught in a heart-diamond squeeze - he must keep the A, but he also has to hold the top diamonds, or else you can overtake the Q.
Now admit it, this would have been easier to find if you had held A-8 in your hand...
If you think it is more likely that West has J-10-9-8 or six of them, you are able to squeeze him in diamonds and clubs, but you have to decide which as early as possible, and it seems more likely that East is holding the diamond guard.
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Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 1995-2009.
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