X-Clubs 39

This week we have a bonus for aspiring declarers, two exercises for aspiring declarers. You don’t have to bid a grand slam to score 100% when you make all thirteen tricks. Just bidding your games and making overtricks will achieve the same thing but there is always much more to the declarer play than taking your top tricks. The first deal is all about trick development and using your side suit, the second one gives us an example of a fairly simple squeeze.

Board 5 from Wednesday 16/11/22
Dealer North NS Vul


All Norths should have opened 1S and after a 2C response from South, ended up in game in hearts, or with better bidding, a small slam. There are a number of ways to make thirteen tricks as long as declarer does not draw all the trumps immediately. Even a club finesse after two rounds of trumps will produce thirteen tricks when the finesse works.

The safest line may not be easiest to find, especially when trumps break badly. But say East leads a low diamond to dummy’s singleton and West’s king. Clubs are obviously a secondary source of many tricks, so declarer should immediately either finesse or play ace of clubs and ruff a low one. Then draw trumps. When they break 4-1 declarer has little choice but to draw all the trumps and then play the clubs. When the queen falls, thirteen tricks, but the 4H contract was assured. Not so easy in a 6H slam but even that will make an overtrick with this line or after a club finesse, the club finesse being a very reasonable option in a heart slam: one club can be lost and more clubs can be developed with any reasonable break in trumps. Simple play and a bit of thought should have yielded all thirteen tricks but ‘should have’ is the operative phrase.

Board 22 Dealer East EW Vul


This time, West has the opportunity to shine. Let’s say that West is playing in a very conservative 4H, thanks to an untrusting and also conservative partner. 6H should always be bid by any competent EW pair. But here is West’s chance to show off some declarer skills with squeeze play. North leads the ten of spades against West’s 4H or 6H contract. Declarer should immediately see the unfortunate duplication in the spade and diamond suits, with an unavoidable diamond losers and no way to avoid a club finesse as well. So, declarer draws three rounds of trumps and then takes the club finesse after playing the ace, and the jack holds. Then the king reveals the bad news but, undeterred, declarer cashes the spades and then leads off all the remaining trumps. When the final trump is led, North has no answer, having to either bare the king of diamonds or surrender a club trick. This is a very simple squeeze and easy to execute but where most people go wrong is that they do not play off their last trump, which is what puts the pressure on defenders. No real knowledge of squeeze play is required, is it? When declarer sees that the fourth club has not come good but declarer still has a potential trick, as here in the queen of diamonds, the play of the final trump will either produce the extra trick or not: if North has the king of diamonds as well as the good club and declarer makes North discard before dummy, the squeeze works. If North does not have the diamond king then the squeeze does not work, but there was in that case always one loser.

What if North had started the defence by leading a low diamond? A reluctant declarer may then have gone up with the ace and still made thirteen tricks. The squeeze still works because declarer’s queen remains a ‘threat’ card at the end, North having to either let go of the king or the ‘winning’ club. Squeezes can be fun and often happen automatically without declarer realising it and, needless to say, without taking advantage of the defenders’ discomfort!