At the recently completed Hua Yuan Cup Elite Bridge Tournament, the prize fo the best-defended hand went to Irina Levitina & Kerri Sanborn for a thoughtful defense that prevented declarer from making her 4 heart contract. The tournament bulletin, on p. 6, described the hand:

Board: 7
Vul: both
Dealer: South

West (Kerri Sanborn)
S  J 4
H  T 9 8 7 6 3 2
D  K T 9
C  2

East (Irina Levitina)
S   K Q 8 7 6
H   5
D   Q J 6
C   K 6 5 3

S  9 5
H  Q J 4
D  2
C  A J T 9 8 7 4
S  A T 3 2
H  A K
D  A 8 7 5 4 3
C  Q


S        W         N       E      
1C*   1S      3H     P
4H   All Pass
* Strong

NS played precision, after a big club opening, north found herself declarer in 4 after Kerri had overcalled 1♠. Irina led her partner’s suit, and ♠A was won in dummy. Declarer drew two rounds of trumps, and kept her chances alive by playing a spade ( at many tables, declarers led a diamond at trick four which guaranteed a loser in each suit and down 1). Kerri won the spade and the defense played two rounds of clubs, declarer ruffed the second. Then declarer led a heart and Irina won with Q.

The defense had three tricks, but with declarer out of spades and clubs, the only possibility for a fourth trick was if Kerri had a diamond winner. However, since

Kerri also held the only spade guard, she was guaranteed to be squeezed when declarer ran trumps if she held Q-J-x of diamonds. Therefore, Irina astutely shifted to a diamond, breaking up the squeeze by forcing declarer to use up an entry to one of the hands.

Of course, some players may be afraid of playing the diamond suit for declarer as it may resolve a guess, and prefer a “safe” club exit. However, if Kerri held only Qxx of diamonds, the contract could never be defeated, since declarer would run the same squeeze to make the contract. Nice defense, and a six imps pickup for USA, as their teammates stopped in a making partscore.