Lady Lavender

by Matthew Kidd

This is board 22 (rotated) from the May 27, 2013 afternoon session of the La Jolla sectional. 14 out of 18 pairs ended up in 3N, played a similar number of times from each side. Double dummy, would you rather player or defend 3N?

Declarer has seven top tricks, a guess in the diamond suit, and a straight finesse in the club suit. Since one always guesses correctly double dummy, things look promising for declarer. And yet the ♣Qx is annoying. It’s a much different animal from Qxx because directly exploiting Qx requires two entries to dummy outside of the suit, one to lead toward the ♣Q and another to return to the ♣A. By contrast, Qxx across from Axx requires no outside suit entries if you are willing to risk losing two tricks and only one outside entry if you want to lead to the queen first because you have a backup plan if the finesse fails. In addition to the club situation, leading to the diamonds requires a third entry to dummy. And it is also necessary to keep an entry to hand to collect the K after East snatches the ace. The heart suit provides only one entry to dummy unless declarer is willing to play for 3-3 hearts, which is significantly against the odds. Moreover, both spade entries can not be used while East still has an entry and three spades to cash.

West’s lead might relieve the entry pressure. For example, on a diamond lead, the play might go A, diamond continuation to the K, spade to dummy, and a club toward the ♣Q. East can take the ♣K but declarer has no problem arriving at nine tricks. A club lead is even more helpful in that declarer can even survive misguessing diamonds if East ducks the first round, provided declarer plays East for ace-doubleton.

But suppose West hits on the lead of the ♠Q. This puts declarer under pressure. Ducking works but suppose declarer wins in dummy. Then trick two must be the 3. If East wins and plays a high spade, declarer must switch tack by cashing all the hearts and K along the way to reach this position.

A spade endplays east via the split tenace in clubs.

Declarer could easily go wrong against a ♠Q lead but is this lead realistic? The auction will probably mark East with spade length and East may well have ventured a favorable vulnerability 1♠ overcall. Even without a 1♠ overcall the lead isn’t completely crazy. West’s diamond suit is weak and he lacks entries to establish it. On a really lucky day, East might have AKx but the actual A8 or a Kx, xx, or xxx is much more likely. Here seeking tricks in partner’s bid or putative suit has promise since he rates to have any entries.

Finally, West might try leading a passive heart. This is not as innocuous as it seems because it attacks the limited entries needed to score the K. Still, declarer can win in hand, play a spade to dummy, and once again lead the essential 3, ultimately achieving the same endplay as above.

There are also double dummy lines where declarer misguesses diamonds. For example, on a heart lead, declarer can win in dummy and lead a diamond, losing the jack to the queen as East ducks. If West now shift to the ♠Q, dummy must duck. Suppose West then returns to hearts. Declarer wins and cashes the remaining heart. Then comes a small diamond to the bare ace while making the essential pitch of a low spade from dummy in this position.

Say East returns a high spade and West pitches a club. A low club is led from dummy, East winning and exiting with another spade as West pitches a diamond.

On the K, declarer pitches a diamond and West is squeezed. This is one of those squeezes where you have enough winners without the squeeze if only you could arrange to take them. If the ♣A and ♣Q were swapped and East held the guards, it would be a jettison squeeze because the blocking ♣A can be pitched on the K if East were to unguard clubs but kept as an entry if East were to unguard diamonds. The jettison squeeze is positional because only East can be squeezed. Chien-Hua Wang terms the actual situation above a nosittej squeeze, the opposite of a jettison squeeze. It is automatic, meaning it works if either opponent guards both suits.

Lady Lavender in the indigo house by the purple wood
cobwebbed by spiders in magic magenta
Lavender, keeper of dark endplays in black-blue ink
lady of subtle skills, tell us all or tell me
where day goes with night and what they do there and what it means.
The questions fall on your lavender lap
and your answer is a lavender laugh in a lavender cry
near a lavender what by a lavender why

Lady Lavender, the Qx, weaves two completely different endplays on the same hand. Don’t forget her worth.