A Bad Habit

One of my bad habits is that I pay attention to the play when I'm dummy. Better is to relax and save energy for when it can be used more effectively, but I find that difficult. On the other hand, I have seen a few gems otherwise missed.

Playing a regional swiss, we are vulnerable and the opponents not, and partner deals me

 S:QJ107 H:AK3 D:106 C:AQ82
Partner opens 1S:. This is a difficult hand to bid playing 2/1 methods. Jacoby 2NT won't help; I don't really care which shortness partner has, or at least I won't be able to take control no matter which he has. I decide to try to describe my hand and let partner take control. There isn't a perfect way to do that, but we play strong jump shifts in a way that will help. I bid 3C:. Partner will normally bid 3D:, and he does this time. RHO doubles this. Now when I bid 3S:, partner knows I have four or more trumps, 16-18 dummy points, no singletons or voids, and something good in clubs. He'll expect five clubs, but I think he ought to know that if I don't have a stiff, I'll have four clubs pretty often. In any case, he gives me no further problems by jumping to 7S:!

West leads a trump and partner smiles. The hand is

S: QJ107
H: AK3
D: 106
C: AQ82
S: AK8654
D: A92
C: K963
1S: Pass 3C: Pass
3D: Dbl 3S: Pass
7S: All Pass
If clubs are 3-2 or he guesses a singleton honor, the slam is cold. What if clubs are bad? Partner draws two rounds of trumps, the opening leader having started with a singleton. Figuring that two singletons and good enough high diamonds to double 3D: would probably have acted, he cashes the C:K. No one shows out nor does an honor fall. He leads to the C:A, but, very sadly, East discards a heart. West had C:J1075. Partner considers this for awhile and tries to squeeze West in diamonds and clubs. When East shows up with the D:J, he is down one. Very unlucky.

Wait a sec...I've seen this layout before...yes! it's the matrix for the double guard squeeze. Oh, my...I blurt out, "I think you could have made it!" "What?" "There's a double guard squeeze...but there is a complication or two..let's see...yes, you need to unblock the D:10 as your first discard from dummy!" We agree to wait to talk about this hand after the match. On the next hand, we bid and make a difficult vulnerable game, but we still lose the match by nine, mostly because we lose 17 IMPs on the unlucky grand.

To make 7S:, declarer needs to start as he did, then cash two hearts, pitching a low card in each minor. Then he runs the trumps. On the fifth trump, he must pitch the D:10, reaching the following position:

H: 3
D: 6
C: Q8
H: J
D: K
C: J10
H: Q10
D: J8
S: 4
D: A9
C: 9
On the last trump, West is squeezed in three suits. Obviously, a club discard gives up a trick. If West pitches his last heart, East will be squeezed betweeen hearts and diamonds when the C:Q is cashed. Pitching a diamond allows partner to cross to the C:Q and take a diamond finesse. That's why the D:10 has to be discarded; otherwise East doesn't cover and there is no way back to the D:A. It would not help for the defenders to alter their discarding strategy earlier; as soon as East has sole control of hearts, there's a straightforward double squeeze around diamonds. Because there is no entry to the hearts, a straight compound squeeze fails, but the guard menace in diamonds makes up for it.

Perhaps it's impossible to get this right. If West really did have D:KQJ, declarer has to guess the position, as he cannot get a count on either red suit. On the other hand, maybe West would have led the D:K with all three honors. Then again, if he had led it on the actual layout, 7S: would have been unmakable.

This is such a good hand that I unabashedly show it around the room, despite its being one partner didn't get right. No one else notices the squeeze, even the person who said, "I'm good at seeing compound squeezes." I reassure partner that it's no sin to miss such a thing at the table. Too bad, though. I would have been very impressed. ...and we would have done a lot better in the event. It would have taken a lot less effort to win the match if clubs had simply been 3-2.

Copyright © 2002 Jeff Goldsmith