Augie Boehm

Workig around a lapse in concentration

In musical theater, an “eleven o’clock number” refers to a knockout song late in the last act that reflects a big moment, often a dramatic development or a realization of great importance. The timing comes from the era when the Broadway curtain rose at 8:30 p.m. Nowadays, musicals finish before 11 p.m to avoid costly union overtime.
In baseball, “Five O’Clock Lightning” was coined for the 1927 New York Yankees, which included “Murderers’ Row.” That team had a penchant for late-inning rallies around the seventh inning or 5 p.m.; games started at 3:30 p.m. to allow businessmen a workday, nd they typically lasted approximately two hours, brief by today’s bloated standards.
In bridge, I was recently involved in a dramatically comparable situation, although my performance falls short of heroic.
To set the stage, assume you woke extra early to travel to a big tournament. You arrive in time for a two-session pair game, afternoon and evening. Things have been going well, and late
in the evening session you find yourself in contention. You pick up:
♠ J ?   A Q J 2     ♣ J 7 6 4
The question mark is intentional. LHO opens 3, not vulnerable against vulnerable. Partner doubles, RHO passes, and you decide to bid 3NT. 4 is possible, but partner doesn’t guarantee four hearts, and notrump might be superior because you can hold up the A twice to disrupt their communications.
The lead is the Q and you anxiously await dummy:
♠ A 6 3 2
8 6 5
J 7
♣ A K Q 10
♠ J ?
A Q J 2
A 6 5
♣ J 7 6 4
The lead (from K–Q–10) asks for unblock or count; RHO follows with the 8 (standard count) and you duck. LHO thinks it over and shifts to the ♠10. You duck in dummy, RHO wins the queen and returns a club which you take on the board.
West’s refusal to continue the K to establish his suit is highly suggestive that he lacks an outside entry. Accordingly, you lead a low spade from dummy – it’s late, and you might catch
East napping. No, he flies with the king as West plays the ♠9. East returns a club, dummy wins, everyone follows. You take a winning heart finesse. At this point, you have one spade winner,
presumably three hearts, one diamond and four clubs. Well and good, but suddenly you are seized by panic. What was the identity of the low spade you played at trick two? The 8 might
become important since only the ♠7 stands in your way of a second spade trick. It’s late, and you realize that it’s you who has been caught napping.
You regret leaving home the day of the event instead of the night before to arrive well-rested. Short of sleep, you summon what little concentration remains to try to score well and avoid
embarrassment. After all, there’s one’s reputation to protect.
Trusting West’s defense, you cash the A to improve your count and tighten the position for a possible squeeze; both opponents follow. You cross to dummy in clubs, West discards a diamond, and you cash the♠ A. East plays the 4, you discard a diamond, and West follows with the ♠7. In a way, this is terrible news; dummy’s ♠6 might now be a winner. Try as you might, you can’t account for the ♠8. Galvanized by this self-inflicted emergency, an idea occurs.
Counting the distribution, West presumably started with six diamonds, exactly two clubs, and at least three spades, therefore at most two hearts. If East began with four spades, a majorsuit
squeeze is certain in this ending:

♠ 6
8 6
♣ A
♠ ?
Irrelevant K 10 9
♣ —
♠ —
A J 2
♣ J

You call for the A, and East effortlessly tosses the 5. “What’s the problem?” he thinks. “The spade is worthless and hearts must be guarded in case declarer lacks the J.” Little can he imagine your relief. You cash the 6 and repeat the heart finesse, making four. You have just executed an information/show-up/safety squeeze. Did these opponents think they were playing against children?

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