<< From the Real World Double Asymmetries

The Miracle Combination

A K Q 9 6 3
A 5
Q 3
J 10 2
8 7 2
K 9 7 3
K 9 8 7
A Q
 
J 10 4
Q 10 8 4
J 5 4
9 6 4
5
J 6 2
A 10 6 2
K 8 7 5 3
This is the only example of a single suit responsible for a double asymmetry. The heart suit in isolation:
A 5
K 9 7 3
 
Q 10 8 4
J 6 2
does not even appear to provide a one-way guard, much less a more complicated two-way guard, but we'll find that the only way to set 4 is by a heart lead from West, while the only way to set 3 NT is by a heart lead from East.

Spades

It would appear, at first, that East could set a 4 contract with a diamond lead. Declarer plays a low diamond, West wins the K and exits a heart.
Declarer can win and draw trumps, but cannot untangle the diamond suit to pitch his heart.
The solution is for declarer to play low from dummy on the first diamond and unblock the Q when West wins the king. After winning the heart switch, declarer can draw trumps and finesse against East's J, then pitch the heart loser on the A.
What if East leads a heart? Then declarer cannot avoid losing a heart, but can keep East off lead long enough to set up his clubs to pitch his diamond loser.
For example, if East leads a low heart, declarer covers it with the jack and ducks the trick when West covers with the king. East then can never get in to lead diamonds.
If East leads the Q, declarer wins this trick, and, with the J in dummy, ensures that East cannot get back in lead via the heart suit to lead diamonds.
If South declares 4 , a low heart lead holds him to nine tricks. South cannot avoid letting East win a heart trick, and then lead a diamond. He must eventually lose a diamond, a heart and two clubs.
Here the nature of the heart guard is not to provide a stopper or a trick, but to keep one opponent off lead. A "non-material" guard, to use the terminology of Kelsey and Ottlik's Adventures in Card Play.

Notrump

East/West have to get active against 3 NT, leading hearts. The notrump contract starts with eight top tricks. A ninth might be set up by leading the diamond queen to West's king and eventually finessing against East's diamond jack.
If South declares, and West leads a heart, declarer ducks and East wins the Q. Suppose East continues hearts. Declarer wins and runs his spades. ending in this position:
3
Q 3
J 10 2
K 9
K 9
A Q
 
10 8
J 5 4
9
J
A 10
K 8 7
On the last spade, West can't pitch a diamond. If he pitches a heart he can be endplayed in clubs, getting two clubs and a heart but forced to give up in diamonds in the end.
So he must pitch the Q. But now declare plays a low club to the king, and West wins. East/West get two more heart tricks, but declarer has the rest - the A and a club.
East cannot profit by shifting to a diamond or a club, either. The diamond lead just sets up declarer's ninth trick, and the club lead reduces to almost the same ending as above, only with one fewer club for everybody. Again West is squeezed.
West might lead the K but then declarer can set up his ninth trick in hearts!
If North declares, though, East can defeat the contract with a low heart lead. However declarer twists and turns, East will remain with the heart queen at the above end position, which means West can pitch down to a single small heart.
So now the heart suit is a guard from the other direction, and again it is a non-material guard. This time, it forces West to hold the K at the six-card end-position, and therefore causes him to be squeezed in three suits.
This heart suit is magic. Not only would you not believe that it provides a guard at all giving the placement of the cards, but it provides a guard in two opposite directions, one in a suit contract, one in notrump, on exactly the same deal!

Clubs

It seems almost anti-climactic to note the pedestrian one-sided guard provided by diamonds in a club contract.
If South declares 5 , he cannot be harmed. On a heart lead, he wins and pitches two hearts on spades before attacking clubs. Only West can get in, and he cannot profitably lead diamonds. The third round of clubs provides entry to dummy's spade for South to pitch his diamond losers.
If North declares 5 , a simply diamond lead by East will set declarer. Declarer obviously cannot avoid two club losers, and if he tries to run four spade tricks to pitch three diamonds, East can ruff, giving the defense either a third club trick or a trick in diamonds.

Post-mortem

Here is the heart suit again:
A 5
K 9 7 3
 
Q 10 8 4
J 6 2
The biggest advantage for the offense is that West is holding almost all of the values. The heart suit acts to protect declarer's advantage in two different ways, depending in the contract.
In the notrump contract, it serves to ensure that West holds the heart honor at the end position. It can only do that if West is on opening lead.
In the spade contract, the heart suit denies East a later entry when declared by North. Declarer can ensure that any heart lost will be lost to West. For timing reason, the defense must get their heart trick before attacking diamonds, but diamonds can only be profitably attacked by East. So the heart suit here works in conjunction with the more traditional diamond suit guard.
In five clubs, that diamond guard carries the full weight of the contract. It seems perverse that the non-material heart guard is necessary to make nine tricks in notrump or ten tricks in spades, but that the diamond guard alone is all that is needed to ensure eleven tricks in clubs.
<< From the Real World
Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 2000-2009.
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