"With eight winners and
five losers in Three No-Trumps, play off your long suit
Most players believe that squeezes occur towards the end of a hand, and that you usually need to have the rest of the tricks bar one to exert the necessary pressure. However, where one defender has responsibilities in three suits, the pinch can operate much earlier, even where there is no chance of an endplay. This deal illustrates the point.
South opens Two No-Trumps, North raises to Three No-Trumps and West leads the ª4. Many declarers would hope to sneak the ninth trick in Hearts, before the defence realize what was going on. They would cross to Dummy to lead a deceptive ©J. This gambit fails, and the defence cash five tricks to beat the game. Observe, however, the effect of playing off the diamonds first. West can spare two small Hearts but has no answer to the fifth Diamond. When he throws a Spade, the ninth trick can be set up in complete safety.
That example should give you the clue to a similar problem from Rubber Bridge:
North opened a Strong No-Trump (15-17), East overcalled with a natural Two Diamonds, and West bid a techy Three No-Trumps. North led ªK. How should West play ?.
The idea of cashing all the Diamonds should be clear, but would you take the action early enough ?. Most declarers, with some idea of cutting communications, or even progressing the play, or even through sheer force of habit, would hold up the ªA to the third round.
This proves fatal if North, after taking two Spades, switches to any Club holding of three cards. The defence set up a Club to go with two Hearts and two Spades before declarer has time to establish a ninth trick.
The Club Switch would not be difficult to find. North held:
ªKQJ9 ©AK6 ¨952 §QJ1O
To make the contract West must win the second, or even the
first, Spade and rattle off the Diamonds. North can spare a small
Heart on the fourth round but has to let go a Spade on the fifth.
Now declarer has time to set up a Heart trick for his game.
On both those deals one defender has sole charge of Hearts and Clubs, and also held the long Spade. My last example, which is an adaptation of a recent Camrose hand which is more complex. Both defenders guard both majors but the pressure still arises:
South opens One No-Trump and North raises to Three
No-Trump. If West leads a high Spade the contract is defeated at
once, but the normal choice is the 2. East wins with the J and
returns the §J. Declarer wins
in hand and sets about the Diamonds. East wins and leads a second
Club. The key moment has arrived. Declarer should be aware that
he is facing five losers and will be playing off the Diamonds
next. If he ever hopes to set up a long Heart, he will need an
entry to reach it. So the second Club must be won in Dummy. Then
comes the rest of the Diamonds. West can throw the Q and a small
Heart, but what can he spare on the last Diamond ? If he throws
another Heart, he cannot gain the lead when the suit is
established. If he throws the 10 the nine is good enough to
promote the King. And if West releases his small Spade, the suit
becomes blocked. Declarer plays off three rounds of Hearts
setting up his ninth trick and the defence cannot run their five.
A similar result occurs whatever East chooses to return when he
is in, provided South concentrates on playing off all the
Diamonds before he tackles any other suit.
The pressures exerted on that deal was of an unfamiliar kind, but it is not necessary for declarer to understand exactly what is going on. It is enough to be aware of the possibilities. Over the years I have been surprised how frequently the long suit, even at an early stage, exerts a pressure that the defence cannot withstand. And it happens particularly often when the contract is Three No-Trumps. However, by Bols tip, for the strangest reason, may be unnecessary for the least skillful player. Like my namesake, Monsieur Jourdain of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who helped to speak prose; he has actually been doing it without knowing !.
"With eight winners and five losers in
Three No-Trumps, play off your long suit early."