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An Intriguing Trump Squeeze

North Deals
Both Vul
From: OKbridge
K Q 6 4
A 5 3
A Q 9 8
K 8
K J 8 7 6
K 7 4
A J 7 6 3
J 9 8 3
10 5 2
Q 10 5 4 2
A 10 7 5 2
Q 10 9 2
J 6 3
West North East South
1 * Pass 1
2 3 Pass 3 NT
Pass 4 Pass 4
All Pass

From the start, it looked like declarer should be able to make an overtrick, but Ruoyo Fan (FrANcis on okbridge) found an imaginative line to make two overtricks after a favorable diamond lead.
You can't really blame West for leading a diamond - with South bidding notrump, a heart lead seems unappetizing, and a club lead looks riskier than the diamond lead.
Fan won the diamond lead in hand with the jack (East playing the ten.) When he led a low trump to the queen, West showed out. Fan then drew trumps (finessing against East's jack), and West pitched three clubs and a diamond. Fan led a diamond, dropping West's now stiff diamond, and Fan played two more top diamonds, allowing him to pitch his club.
Here is the position on the last diamond from North:
A 5 3
K 8
K J 8 7
Q 10 5 4 2
Q 10 9 2
If West pitched a club, Fan would ruff a club, establishing the K, then lead the Q, forcing West to cover. Whatever he West did, West would get only one trick.
So West must pitch a heart.
Fan now led a low heart to the nine and jack, and West was stuck. Here is the situation West was confronted with:
A 5
K 8
K 7
Q 10 5 4
Q 10 2
If West led the A, Fan would ruff, and lead the Q. Whether West covered or not, declarer would have two hearts and the K left. If he led a low heart, Fan would let it ride to the Q, play a heart to the ace, dropping the king, and ruff a club to get back to the long heart. The K is obviously a poor choice of exits - declarer's hand becomes good on that lead. If West led a low club, Fan would win in dummy, pitching a heart, ruff a club, and take the heart finesse for the rest of the tricks.
West can't afford to duck the heart lead, either, because then Fan just plays ace and another heart, setting up the fourth heart with the trump left as an entry.
This is some netherworld trump squeeze throw-in. The 7 serves three functions. First, it forces West to pitch down to three hearts on the last diamond, to protect against his A being ruffed out. Then, after he is forced to win a heart, it is protection against West playing the A. Lastly it provides a much-needed entry, either to the long heart or to take the heart finesse, depending on how West chooses to exit.
Making six was worth 88%, while making five would have been worth 63%.
So, we get back to my pet peeve. Why is West bidding? NS almost certainly have a spade fit, and they have surely just found it. The 1 bid (light this time) forces the precision players to game; the last thing West wants to do is steer them towards a 3NT game when they have only a modest fit - the trump break could kill them in 4S. And if partner is on lead against 3NT, it is far from clear that West wants a heart lead.
I can certainly see the temptation of bidding on this hand, but I have learned to also see the temptation of passing. Like a person who is cutting back on salt, I have learned the subtle flavor of passing can often be far more satisfying than the salty flavor of bidding.
<< Wishful Thinking
Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 1995-2009.
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