Playing in a CNTC Team Qualifying game the other day, I had this interesting play problem come up. I held KQJT98 6 KQT32 J, everyone Vul. Partner opened 1C and RHO overcalled 1H. I bid 1S, which thankfully we play as forcing, and partner bid 2C. I know bid 3D and partner caved to some Spades with 3S. We now got to 4S and the opening lead was the 7 of Hearts, with this hand appearing.
63 AT95 5 AQ9874
KQJT98 6 KQT32 J
Not the most appealing opener or hand, but will see what we can do.
I won the A of Hearts at trick 1, and led the Diamond off board. RHO thought for a moment, then won the A of Diamonds before playing A and another Spade, both following. I perforce won in my hand, and played a third Spade, LHO following while RHO pitched a Heart. Just to see what was going on, I played 1 more Spade, and LHO pitched a small Heart while RHO pitched an interesting small Diamond.
Basically at this point I am cold if both opps follow to another Diamond, so I cashed the K of Diamonds. Sure enough, RHO pitched a small Heart, giving me a fairly good count on the hand, but a problem. We were now at this point in the hand.
--- T9 --- AQ98
--- ? J9x ?? Basically irrelevant
98 --- QT3 J
There are 2 problems on the hand, to figure out what the last 3 cards in LHO’s hand are, and find a way to strip him down to only Diamonds for the endplay. There are a couple of possibilities here, I could play A and ruff a Club or Heart, then the last Spade, but LHO could then pitch a Diamond on the last Spade and keep a winner. I could rely on the Club hook, but based on the overcall and defense, that looked unlikely. Or I could try squeezing LHO now with a Spade.
The last option looked best, so I played out another Spade. LHO thought for a moment and threw another Heart, which I did not think was best, and RHO threw a Club. I was pretty sure LHO now had 2 Clubs and 3 Diamonds, and it was irrelevant where the K of Clubs was. I played a Club to the A, ruffed a Club while RHO played the K and LHO followed, then exited the low Diamond and claimed.
Kind of a nice strip/squeeze/endplay, but I really thought the opps did not give me best / toughest defense here. First, RHO should NEVER have thrown the Diamond early, that gave away the whole hand and set me on a winning course. Keep the Diamond and when I cash the K of Diamonds, I almost need mirrors to decide to play for this. And on the final squeeze Spade I played, LHO should pitch the small Club, not the Heart. Now when I play the Club to the A and ruff something off board, I have to decide what the last card in LHO’s hand is, a Heart or a Club, and play the correct card off dummy. If I get it wrong, LHO can pitch the small Diamond and easily beat the hand.
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Had another fun hand, more from my side anyways, in the same match. I picked up JT AQ853 T742 T8 at what we call terrorist vulnerability (NV vs VUL) and opened 2H in 3rd seat. LHO bid 2S, and partner bid 3C, more lead directional with usually Heart tolerance. RHO doubled this, passed back to partner who ran to 3H. RHO now bid 3S, and LHO raised to 4, ending the auction.
Partner led a small (3rd best) Heart, and this dummy appeared.
K2 964 K5 K97632
Declarer played low on the Heart, I won the A, and played back a low Heart, LHO winning the K. Declarer played a Spade to the K, under which I dropped the J. Declarer jokingly asked if that was good or bad, and for who. Declarer thought for a while and played a second Spade off dummy, smiling when I dropped the 10, winning with the Q. Declarer now pulled 2 more rounds of Spades, with the A and 9, partner following low. I pitched a low Heart and the 8 of Clubs. We play upside down Count and Attitude, so I was hoping partner was getting closer to working this out. Declarer now played a Diamond to the K, and I dropped the 4. When he played the small Diamond off board, I followed with the 2, supposedly showing 3 of them.
Declarer thought for a minute and played the J, and the roof fell in. Partner won the Q, cashed the A of Clubs, and exited with that precious third Heart, declarer ruffing. Declarer now cashed the A of Diamonds, and when partner showed out, I could claim for down 2.
Pretty sure declarer had a lot better line of play, but this hand was going to be rough to make. But setting up a Club and ruffing 1 Diamond turns out would have worked better, although it gets pretty complicated whether it makes or not. But it was fun to bug declarer, a friend, with an ‘I Lied’ comment when he cashed the A of Diamonds and got an annoyed look on his face.