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Six or Seven?

North Deals
N-S Vul
A K 6 3 2
Q 6 3
J 10 5 4
Q J 9 7 5 4
9 4
J 10
A Q 2
K 8 7 6 5 3 2
9 8 6 3
A K 9 7 5 4 2
K 7
West North East South
Pass 3 Dbl
Pass 4 Pass 5
Pass 6 All Pass

West leads a heart to East's king and your ace. You have gotten to a satisfying slam. You have 12 top tricks, can you find a way to take the 13th?
At first, you might think to try to ruff good the spades. Play A, ruff a spade, ruff a heart, ruff a spade, then take the A-Q If spades are splitting 4-3 and diamonds 2-1, you make an overtrick.
There is a slight risk in this line. If spades are 4-3 and diamonds a 3-0 with the long diamond in the hand with the three-card spade suit, you may never be able to cash your second top spade without someone ruffing. This is only a slight risk, because East would have to be void in clubs to hold three spades and three diamonds. Wouldn't West lead the A if he had seven of them, looking for partner's ruff? West might be hold three spades and three diamonds, but that would have East opening with three spades also.
But why take the risk? There is a squeeze option on this hand. Indeed, as the cards lie, it is the only way to make the overtrick. If West has five or more spades and the A, as he has here, you can squeeze him on the run of the red suit winners.
I did not see the squeeze on this hand, even though I was kibbitzing double dummy. Someone had to point it out to me. This was a pattern recognition problem. If South had held a doubleton spade and the stiff K, I certainly would have seen it, but for some reason I did not see the king as a threat card in the K-7 holding.
East makes things only slightly more difficult for you if he ducks the heart. Then you have to ruff a heart before you draw trumps. This can be done at no risk, however.
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Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 1995-2009.
An Ace Too Few >>
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