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"THAT WAS plain bad luck," said South resignedly, after going down in Seven Hearts. "I played it according to the percentages." True, he was unlucky to go down, but his claim to having played the percentages was false.

The bidding was long and involved, but the heart grand slam was an excellent contract. West's 2J lead was the only one to give declarer problems as it removed dummy's entry before the spades could be unblocked, four discards being needed.

Declarer knew his basic percentages; a suit with five cards outstanding will break 3-2 68 per cent of the time, but a suit with seven cards missing will break 4-3 only 62 per cent of the time.

Deciding therefore that playing for the 3-2 trump break was better odds than playing for the 4-3 spade break, after winning the lead with dummy's ace declarer came to hand with a top trump and ruffed a small diamond. But when he played !Q, intending to overtake, East showed out and so the slam failed.

The percentage calculations were wrong. What South hadn't factored in were the squeeze chances. If either opponent held five or more spades plus either 2K or both #Q and #J, he would be squeezed. These possibilities, added to the 62 per cent chance of the 4-3 spade break, make this the superior line.

Which all leads to the suggested sequence of play: win the opening lead, then play five rounds of trumps and #A and # K, discarding dummy's four small clubs. As you can see, it is East who cannot hold on to five spades plus 2K in the five-card ending.

North-South game;

dealer South


4A K Q J 2

!Q 6 2


2A 6 5 4 2

West East

46 3 49 8 7 5 4

!10 9 7 4 !5

#J 6 3 #Q 9 7 5 2

2J 10 8 3 2K 9



!A K J 8 3

#A K 10 8 4

2Q 7