Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

A Hand from the Slava Cup

Have you heard of the Slava Cup.  It is a bridge tournament held in memory of Slava Grinuk pictured here.

Slava died in 1999 at the age of 29.  He was a graduate of the Moscow State University and did well in bridge championships, primarily in Russia.  It is a credit to the man that so many years after his death he is still remembered in a bridge tournament.  The tournament venue is in the Moscow City Gold Club.  There are two competitions, The team tournament, the Top 8 and the pairs tournament the Top 32.  The Top 8 teams are invited to play by the organizing committee.  This years Top 8 looked like a whose who of European bridge. 

The match I watched was a match between Israel and Lazy, a Russian team.  I watch a lot of bridge one way and another and it is amazing how many really interesting hands a match of top teams like this can produce.  In the end I chose this deal which featured the possibility of a complex slam and put a lot of pressure on the defenders.

Khiuppenen was West and Kholomeev was East for a Russiam team.  Zack was North and Olan Herbst was South for Israel.

 Board 28

Dealer: West
Vul: N-S









Olan Herbst




Do you want to be in a heart slam East-West on these cards?  Assume no opposition bidding. Your best chance of slam is that the  Q will come down in no more than three rounds.  On some occasions you might be able to play the diamond suit for no losers.  And there is a chance of a squeeze of some sort as well.  Some quick mathematics tells us that the chance of the   Q coming down is roughly 22%.   There are various squeeze chances if the  Q doesnt fall.  And even if there is not a perfect squeeze these hands are tough to defend and one might just materialize.  Still I think bidding the slam is somewhat aggressive.

There was no opposition bidding. Khiuppenen opened with 1 and Kholomeev eventually showed a game forcing hand with heart support.  Some cuebids, keycard Blackwood and they were in the heart slam after seven rounds of bidding.  Zack led a spade and Khiuppenen won with his king.  If you need a squeeze, as you likely will, you are going to have to duck a club and Khiuppenen decided to do this early.  He crossed to dummy with a high heart and led a club from dummy.  If Herbst casually played low on the club as I, myself, might well have done then the declarer can make the slam.  Declarer puts in the  10 and Zack must win the  K.  After that declarer has a pretty easy double squeeze.  Say Zack returns a club.  Declarer wins.  Crosses to dummy on a heart and ruffs a spade and then runs trump. This leads to this three card ending as declarer leads the last trump Zack must throw a diamond to hold onto a spade.  Declarer now throws the  J from dummy and Herbst is squeezed in clubs and diamonds in this ending.

Dealer: West
Vul: N-S


♠ Q  
♦ 964



♠  – 
♦ K102 
♣ –


♠ J 
♥ – 
♦ A8 
♣ 9


Olan Herbst

♠  –

♥  –
♦  QJ7
♣  Q


But Herbst rose on the  Q.  That in and of itself was a very good play, maybe even a great play. 

But now the only winning return is a club.  Let’s see why.  Suppose that Herbst returns the “safe” heart.  Now declarer can play a heart to dummy and ruff a spade and then cash the K and run hearts.   Zack who is triple squeezed, must hold the  Q and therefore has to give up control of a minor.  This is the end of the first phase of the compound squeeze.  Suppose Zack gives up the club guard.   Now there is a non-simultenous double squeeze with diamonds as the central suit.   The tricky part for declarer is that he can’t cash the  A until the end of the hand or he will have to make a premature discard from his hand.  Try it yourself.  Compound squeezes are beautiful (at least to me) but one of the harder squeezes to execute. 

I doubt that Herbst, who appeared to play quite quickly (at least on BBO) worked all this out on the table.  But he was good enough to work out that if there was a squeeze, the club entry late in the hand would be important and attacking this entry was his best hope to break up the squeeze.  After this play, since the defense discarded correctly there was nothing declarer could do.  He tried for a squeeze but it just isn’t there.  I think this is a remarkable defense.

In the other room Ginossar and Pachtman played in an easy 4  contract.  Khohlov sitting South also found the rise on the club and the club return, although he had a few extra tricks to think about it and no easy heart exit. And he was not under the pressure of defending a heart slam.  Still a good play as well.  11 imps for Israel who went on to win the match 79 imps to 20 imps.

1 Comment

MichaelFebruary 18th, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Interesting hand, nice write up.

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