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BRIDGE NOTES: Facing the suicide squeeze

Bridge is a game of mental skill no doubt. It is also an exercise in logic and reasoning. But at the same time the key to good play in bridge lies with the timing. For in bridge nothing can work out in your favour if your timing is out. For this fascinating game has quickly changing odds and as the battle of wits rages between your side and the opponents, every attack is responded with either a well planned defence or by an equally ferocious counter attack.

This is primarily because the opening lead always lies with the opponents and it is in gaining the lead as soon as possible that the declarer puts his plan in action. But what makes bridge so interesting is that the lead keeps coming and going, changing hands to and from quite a few times depending upon the nature and the level of the contract bid vis-à-vis the lie of the key cards along with the distribution of suits. What matters in end is how good is your communication skill in bridge. A player is tested by the mental awareness he possesses to save himself from getting deadlocked for want of entries either to dummy or hand. The communication between the dummy and your hand is as vital as the communication that the opponents keep aspiring for themselves. But since their hands are hidden from each other, they have a more uphill task. But with the dummy spread out before the declarer, he needs to plan his play in a manner where he has sufficient control to time his play and the necessary entries to cash his developing winners.

Today's illustration is a test of communication skill in bridge. The contract by NS bid as under is of 7NT on the following deal:

The bidding proceeded as under:

The opening lead was the 10H. As south, how do you plan the play? On the face of it you have 4 top tricks in spade, 3 in hearts and clubs each with 2 in diamonds giving you 12 top tricks in aces and kings. You need to find the 13th trick for your ambitious grand slam.

There are two favourable outlets for you. The drop of the JC to enable you to get the 10C good as master. Or you resort to squeeze the opponents, assuming of course that the same opponent holding the larger diamonds also holds the JC. For when you run your winners full of aces and kings, 10 in number apart from the AK of diamonds, the 3 cards ending with that opponent who holds the jack of clubs as well as the 3 or 4 diamonds would be suicidal for him. For if he clings to the JC, he has to let go the diamond guard and if he discards the JC, dummy's 10C becomes master for the 13th trick.

But letting aside all the paraphernalia of squeeze, here there are a few snags that can crop up easily in case you are not careful enough in your communication. Supposing you cash your spades first before your heart winners, after cashing the top clubs, you would be unable to get back to dummy to win a trick with the 10C even if JC falls or is discarded on the third heart. Timing your communication is vital. The proper sequence should be to cash your club winners first if jack does not drop, for the squeeze, identifying 2 threat cards as 10C in dummy and the third diamond in hand. So in order to reach either or both of the threat cards after the squeeze, it is essential to cash your major suit winners ending in dummy, running hearts before the spades to get to this 3 card ending.

Of course, as the cards lay. West was holding JC and 3 diamonds with no hope facing the suicide squeeze.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2012