Anticipating Partner Getting Squeezed
Saturday afternoon at the Columbia, SC sectional, I declared this fascinating hand against one of the top pairs in the area.
First off, it’s an opening lead problem for west. I think the ♥A stands out but I would not be opposed to a spade lead. With AQx, there shouldn’t be any danger of giving declarer 2 heart tricks as long as partner has a halfway decent overcall.
Hugh led ♥A and ♥Q, both winning. Playing standard signaling, Greg played the 7 and then the 9. Declarer followed with the 2 and 3 as dummy shed a diamond. Do you lead another heart? Why?
Let’s examine the possibilities from Hugh’s perspective. In light of this dummy, you can count 7 tricks for declarer and clearing hearts will give him an 8th. A) If declarer has the ♠K, you must cash out – lead another heart, and partner will figure out to cash as many diamonds as possible after taking the ♥K. B) If partner has the ♠K and declarer the ♦A, declarer has 9 tricks unless partner has KQJ. In that case, a diamond lead is necessary to set the contract. That would give declarer 5 or 6 hcp depending on the CJ. C) If partner has both the ♠K and ♦A, it would at first seem that clearing hearts is the way to go as declarer will still be left with only 8 tricks, but that opens up partner to a squeeze. This is definitely the most likely scenario for setting the contract but you need to lead a spade at trick 3.
What about east’s signaling? The 8 at trick one is definitely encouragement but does the 9 at trick 2 suggest a switch now that he realized declarer’s stopper is ♥JTxx? If so, does it suggest spades or diamonds or is it up to the opening leader to figure out which one makes more sense. I’m inclined to think it suggests that partner find a switch but I’m not sure. The spade is obviously the killer on this deal and it’s much easier to find in imps than matchpoints because the threat of declarer having the SK and having red suit tricks go away is too high by not continuing hearts.
At the table, they continued hearts. Executing the squeeze is pretty simple. I won the 4th round of hearts and runs clubs. Surely the spade finesse is losing (♥K and ♦A probably isn’t enough for most people to overcall 1♥) so it’s right to play for east to have the ♦A and ♠K. Here is the ending with one club to go.
If east discards the heart, throw him in with a diamond and he has to lead a spade into dummy. If he throws a spade, drop his now-stiff K. If he throws the diamond, claim.
On the actual deal, he threw the ♦A, which actually is the only legit way to still be able to potentially set the contract. He would need Hugh to have the K, a very slim possibility.