This real deal was dealt by Mary Maier.
With a decent 8-card suit and less than opening bid strength, a 4-level preempt is recommended. Accordingly, East opens 4.
This doesn’t mean 10 tricks in hand– it shows more like 7-8 tricks and a weak hand. The preempter can (as here) have a side ace (and/or void).
South would like to overcall, but to start on the 5-level (and vulnerable), she would need more.
After South and West Pass, North doubles. A double of a preempt (even on the 4-level) is not for penalty. It is “takeout/cards.” North’s hand is perfect, but even if the 2 were the 2, North should still start with a double. It is not for penalty! If North had something like: Axx KQJ Ax xxxxx, he would just pass and take his likely plus score.
After East’s pass, South should take out the double. If South were flat, something like: Jx Jxx Qxxx Kxxx, she would pass and try to set them. Contracting to take tricks at such a high level requires some shape – and South certainly has it. I’d say the choice is between 5 and 6. I’d like to bid 5 ½, but that’s not legal. I’ve shown a 5 bid in the diagram, because my general advice on these situations (high-level guesses over preempts) is to take the low road. Breaks will be unfriendly (wild distribution) and at other tables, maybe North wasn’t brave enough to balance. Perhaps other players are defending 4 with my hand, in which case, bidding and making 5 will be good enough.
West might go onto 5, but is shown passing (5 might actually push the opponents into 6, which we will soon see is a make!).
Against 5, West leads a low heart. Declarer plans the play (yes, the first trick will be won in dummy, but it is better to plan before calling for dummy’s card).
In a trump contract, think in terms of “what will I lose?”. Certainly, no red-suit tricks. There is an eventual club loser and maybe 2 in spades. The spade suit should be led from the South hand, with a potential guess for the ace and queen. If declarer plays spades first, even with a misguess, it will set up an eventual spade winner. On that, a club can be thrown. So, 5 is in no jeopardy.
After winning the A, the question (very easy here) has to be asked: Should I draw trump? Yes! Declarer takes the AK of diamonds and as planned above, leads the 10. Playing clubs first is wrong. Barring a 3-3 break, the clubs won’t produce an extra trick; declarer would then be forced to guess spades to make the contract.
By leading the 10 now, planning to run it, the contract is assured. Why plan on running the 10 instead of playing to the K? Because if West has both the Ace and queen, this will produce a potentially valuable overtrick. Also, if West makes the mistake of not covering the 10, the 10 would lose to the ace and later the jack can be finessed in safety for that same overtrick.
West should cover the 10 with the queen and then the king loses to the ace. Regardless of East’s return, declarer has the rest. How, you ask? I’m glad you did.
I don’t teach squeezes (especially to newer players), but sometimes you just fall into them. First of all, if East returns a heart, declarer can immediately claim 12 tricks. The ruff/sluff would allow declarer to sluff a club from hand and ruff in dummy. On any other return, declarer can play the K and trump a spade. That leaves dummy and West with the only remaining spades. Even though West’s spade is higher than dummy’s, he will have a problem. Declarer can run all his trumps and this is what it will look like with one trump to be played:
South leads the last diamond. Whichever black card West throws, dummy will end up with the rest of the tricks. If West throws the 9, dummy keeps the AK of clubs and the good spade. If West throws a club, dummy throws a spade and the clubs are all good. 5 making with an overtrick. Maybe if South plays them so well, she should have bid the slam after all.
1) A 4-level opening is preemptive with an 8-card suit
2) Double of 4M not penalty
3) Don’t bury your partner for balancing
4) You don’t need to study squeezes; just running winners will often let you fall into one.