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Today's deal is from the Swiss League of the Chennai Bridge Association annual held recently in the city. The declarer, P. Sridhar, one of the finest players in the country, produced a brilliant ending where he squeezed his opponent in three suits to succeed in a slam contract. Enjoy the play.
Contract: 6S by south. West leads the HQ. Plan the play.
Bidding explanation: North's jump to game is based on distributional asset rather than high card points. Possessing an opening hand himself and expecting at least good 16+ points in partner's hand, south bid the slam with complete confidence.
Play: Declarer won the opening lead in dummy, east following with the three. When declarer played the SQ, east won and played the H9. Declarer won the continuation in hand and ruffed a club. Overtaking dummy's spade with the king in hand, declarer ruffed a second club. Entering hand by DQ next, declarer played the S9 to draw the outstanding trump from east. West discarded a heart and so did dummy. The last five-card ending was:
Play proceeded….Declarer led the last trump now. West discarded the HJ and dummy shed the H7. When declarer played H8 which had become a winner, west discarded the CA and Sridhar claimed twelve tricks. The complete hands were:
Discussion: As you would have observed, west was squeezed in three suits. Since west could not afford to discard a diamond on declarer's last trump, he gave up a heart hoping for H8 in partner's hand. The H8 which became a winner became a squeeze card now and it inflicted a squeeze again on west; this time, against the minors. A classic repeating squeeze!
Declarer's approach to the play was very simple. He aimed for three trump tricks in his hand, two club ruffs in dummy, two heart tricks, and five diamond tricks for a total of twelve tricks.
Winning the heart lead in dummy at trick one was impeccable for it preserved the HK as entry to hand for ruffing the club in dummy.
Declarer was not satisfied with the 68 per cent chance of the diamond break. He hoped that the play of the last trump might exert pressure on west. And it did!
I have found Sridhar to be a sound bidder and a steady player. He's very quick but thorough in his analysis. Most declarers shy away from playing the last trump, fearing they may lose control of the hand. They should realize that unless they conquer the fear, it will be impossible to execute squeezes, endplays, and coups which are considered the ultimate in card play.
Play out the deal using a deck of cards. You will be able to understand and appreciate the ending better.