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February 3, 2001
Not the Best Contract and Choosing the Safe Tricks
Not the Best Contract
As South, pleased that partner opened the bidding, you explore for a major suit fit and
immediately strike gold when partner rebids 4. Partner should have four card heart
support and a hand with a value of 19-21 points. Blackwood (4NT) confirms that your side
holds all four aces and a further inquiry (5NT) reveals all but one king. Feeling pretty
good about things you go for the gold ring and bid 7.
West leads the 10 which goes J-7-A.
A review of your assets tells two bad stories.
First - In a heart contract you have only 12 top tricks (4 spades, 5 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 1 club). Trumping a club in the South hand uses one of the heart tricks you have already counted.
Second - In a spade contract you have 13 top tricks (4 spades, 5 hearts, 2 diamonds, 1 club, and 1 club ruff in the South hand). In spades you do not have the same issue of trumping in the long hand.
Unfortunately you cannot alter the contract to spades. Is there any chance of finding a thirteenth trick? I will tell you that neither defender holds a singleton diamond honor and neither defender holds the doubleton QJ.
What lie of the cards will allow you to make the hand? How do you play?
The answer is below.
Choosing the Safe Tricks
As South, you and partner bid to a heart game. West leads the Q which you win
in hand. What line gives the play for the maximum number of tricks and the greatest
The answer is below.
Not the Best Contract - Answer
The complete hand:
In order to take thirteen tricks you will need one defender (either one will do) to
have to guard both clubs and diamonds. That means that one of the defenders will need to
hold both the QJx of diamonds and the K. You will need to place them in a
position of having to give up the guard in one of these suits and provide you with a
This is known as a simple squeeze.
Play as follows:
With three tricks to play the four hands are as follows. When North cashes the last spade, East is squeezed and must discard and give declarer the thirteenth trick.
Choosing the Safe Tricks - Answer
This is a case of finding the route to ten (or more!) tricks that provides the greatest safety. To solve these problems it pays to play the "what if" game.
What if you pull trump and take the diamond finesse by leading the Q? If West holds the K then you will take at least 11 tricks (6 hearts, 3 diamonds minimum, and 2 clubs). You will take 12 tricks if the K is with West and West holds a total of three diamonds or less (so that you can take 4 diamond tricks). You will also take 12 tricks if West holds the K (any length) AND East holds the A (1 spade, 6 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 2 clubs).
If East holds the K and West holds the spade ace you might well find yourself in trouble. East wins the diamond and shifts to spades scoring four tricks for the defense.
What if you pull trump, discard a diamond on the K, and then lead a spade towards the K? Not bad. Much better then the first solution. If the A is in East hand you will win 11 tricks (1 spade, 6 hearts, 1 diamond, 2 clubs, and 1 spade ruff in dummy). If the A is in the West hand you will win 10 tricks (6 hearts, 1 diamond, 2 clubs, and 1 spade ruff in dummy).
What if you pull trump, discard a diamond on the K, and then lead a diamond? The best solution so far. If the K is in the West hand you will win 11 tricks by discarding a spade on the diamond. West can do no better than cash a spade. You will take 6 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 2 clubs. If the K is in the East hand you will win 11 tricks by trumping the diamond (whenever East covers). You will take 6 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 2 clubs. You can then lead a spade towards the K trying to take a 12th trick after discarding two spades on the diamonds. If the contract was 6 then Line 3 is correct. If the contract was 4 and you are playing rubber bridge or team play then Line 3 is correct.
The complete hand: