Fourth Best

Playing in the Life Master Pairs against unknown opponents, I open the South hand with a weak (12-14) notrump and am shortly in 3NT. The opening lead is the D:8.
S: AJ87
H: KQ42
D: A3
C: 1072
S: 105
H: A65
D: KQ52
C: KQ93

I want to be in dummy to lead clubs, so I win the D:A and lead a club to the king. LHO thinks for a little while (if you are going to duck, do it in tempo) and wins the trick. He continues with the D:J, and RHO shows out, pitching a heart! Ah...fourth best from J109864. Sure. I might as well generate another club trick, so I cross to dummy in hearts and hook the C:9, which holds as LHO follows with the C:4. I suspect clubs are 2-4, but that's far from certain, and I don't need to test them now.

I have for certain one spade, three hearts, three diamonds, and two clubs. I can make an overtrick if clubs or hearts split. Hearts are almost certainly 1-5 (that heart pitch looks a lot like an idle fifth), so I can generate a tenth trick by squeezing RHO in clubs and hearts if clubs are not 3-3. To do that, however, I need to rectify the count by ducking two tricks. It seems natural to do that by attacking spades. Who knows---they may produce a tenth trick, and then I can perform the squeeze for eleven. So I play a spade to the 8. RHO wins the S:9 and continues with the C:J. LHO pitches a diamond, so I have a pretty good count on the hand. LHO is 4162 and RHO 3514. This isn't 100% certain, but I'm willing to bet on it. That means that I need to duck one more trick to rectify the count for a heart-club squeeze against RHO. I can't play spades or he'll win and cash a club, but I can duck a diamond safely. I do, and LHO thinks about his return.

It doesn't matter. If he plays a spade, I'll win and cross to hand with the H:A. Then the D:Q will squeeze RHO. Or if he continues diamonds, I'll cash the S:A, come back with a heart, and the same position ensues. He picks a spade. I win, play a heart, and as LHO shows out, I have the count for certain. I cash the D:Q and claim ten tricks for what should be a decent score.

Copyright © 2011 Jeff Goldsmith