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What are friends for? by Zia Mahmood

the guardian Thursday 6 January 2011

Zia Mahmood
Zia Mahmood

What are friends for? A card play adventure with a sting in the tail

I believe that Geza Ottlik and Hugh Kelsey’s Adventures in Card Play is the best book on the subject ever written. A friend objected that the book was «too tough – all these positions are very pretty, but none of them ever comes up in actual play». Shortly after this conversation, today’s deal appeared.

Love all, dealer West:

What are friends for 1

North-South bid to 4 which East doubled, and with an awkward choice of leads West chose the most awkward for the defence when he began with a diamond – a heart lead would beat the contract two, a spade would beat it one, but a diamond allowed this line of play.

South put in dummy’s 10, ruffed East’s ace, led a spade to the K, threw two losing hearts on dummy’s top diamonds, and led a low heart from the table in this position:

What are friends for 2

If West wins the , the defenders cannot prevent a cross-ruff. So East must put in the J in order to lead three rounds of trumps.

But look what happens to West: he can discard a and the 10, but on the third he is trump-squeezed in three suits.

A discard allows declarer to ruff out the queen; a discard will allow declarer to establish a long and throwing the K will allow declarer to set up a heart trick by means of a ruffing finesse with the queen and eight against East’s ace and seven.

«There you are,» I said .»A three-suit criss-cross ruffing squeeze – these pretty plays do come up at the table.»

«Maybe,» he said, «but instead of leading that heart, declarer could have led a diamond from dummy and thrown the heart loser away.

Then the defenders can’t draw trumps and declarer just cross-ruffs.» He was right, of course. But Adventures in Card Play is still a masterpiece.


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