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Grand slams do not generally pose any problems in play, for no one wants to contract for it unless he can practically count thirteen tricks during the bidding itself. Declarers do tend to get a bit careless, for they think that play is going to be a cakewalk. This is exactly what happened in a match-point tournament recently.
Contract: 7S by south. West leads the D9. Plan the play.
How the play went: The lead was the same at all tables. Declarers won the opening lead in hand with the jack and ruffed a heart immediately. Entering hand by a trump, they ruffed a second heart, and drew trumps in three rounds. When they played a diamond, west discarded a club and they could no longer make the contract. The complete hands were:
It was unfortunate that the diamonds were 5-1 but why blame the distribution when declarer could have made the contract?
Correct play: After ruffing the second heart, declarer should cash the CA and play out the trumps to reach this position:
Declarer plays the last spade now and pitches the club from dummy. East is squeezed in the minors!
Discussion: You would have realised that the key play is to cash the CA before you reel trumps, thereby paving the way for the squeeze. This type of unblocking play was recognised two hundred years ago in Vienna, capital of Austria, and goes by the name ‘Vienna Coup’.
If you do not cash the CA, the squeeze fails as dummy is squeezed ahead of east!
If the diamonds are 3-3 or even 4-2, it won’t matter to employ the Vienna. An expert, however, does not assume easy break of suits but provides for the worst division, if he can!
Play out the deal with a deck of cards to understand the squeeze mechanism better. You will also find out why the squeeze fails if declarer does not unblock the CA before he leads out the squeeze card.