Much Ado About Nothing

(How much work can go into a hand without actually reaping any reward?)

by Sarah Teshome

from the
National Swiss Teams
Leeds, January 2005

(The hand is inverted so that dummy is at the top)

SJ 10 5 3
H4 3 2
DA J 8
CA 8 5
SQ 7 4S9 8 6 2 
HK 7 6 5HA 9 8
DQ 9 7 4D5
CJ 7CK 9 6 4 3
HQ J 10
DK 10 6 3 2
CQ 10 2

Bidding: Sarah Teshome (N) and Richard Winter (S)

Dealer North, both vulnerable

 North   East    South   West 
 1D   Pass   1S   Pass 
 1NT   Pass   2C(1)   Pass 
 3D(2)   Pass   3NT   All Pass 

(1) Enquiry as to range and shape
(2) 15-16 with 5 diamonds

East led the five of hearts to West's ace, and West returned the nine of hearts which I covered with the knave, and East ducked. My prospects for nine tricks looked pretty good. I had a heart in the bag, and I should be able to make two spade tricks and a club trick, which takes me up to four tricks. So all I have to do for nine tricks is make five diamonds or four diamonds and another trick from either clubs or spades..

It doesn't seem to make any difference whether I play the diamonds from hand or from the dummy, so I try the effect of a diamond to the knave. This holds, but unfortunately when I cash the ace of diamonds, West shows out, and discards the three of clubs. Upon enquiry it transpires that this is encouraging. If I believe West's signal, and he looks the soul of honesty, I can make nine tricks by establishing the diamonds, and playing a low club towards the queen and hoping that West holds the King. Well this is all very well but before I get to my nine tricks, the defence will score five, by means of a diamond, three hearts and a club.

So let's think of something else. How about squeezing East? I play a low club immediately towards my Queen. West correctly rises with the King of Clubs - after all if he doesn't I make my contract straight away. He continues with the hearts, and East clears the hearts. On the fourth heart, I throw a spade from the dummy and a diamond from hand, and West parts with a club. The defence have now taken three heart tricks and the king of clubs. East exits with the knave of clubs which I win in hand with the queen, and I have to make all the rest of the tricks. The five card ending is now:-

SJ 10 5
SQ 7 4S9 8 6 2 
DQ 9D-
DK 10

I can see the end position clearly now. East will be squeezed if he holds Qxx of spades alongside the two diamonds he is known to hold. I will cash the two top spades and when I play my club across to dummy he will either have to part with a diamond (in which case my two diamonds in hand are good) or he has to throw away the queen of spades, and dummy's knave scores. More in hope than expectation, I cash the top spades, play the club and East produces the ... eight of spades.

The diagram above is how I needed the cards to lie to make my contract. In reality, instead of holding Queen to three spades, East held three low spades, and threw his third spade away painlessly. Three no trumps went one off for a flat board.

There aren't many fairytale endings in bridge.

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