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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

The “Free” Finesse that “Cost”.

Call it a free finesse, one where you will not lose the trick even if it fails. Call it a “Greek Gift”.

Whatever you call it, it was one down in a contract that never should have been beaten.

This is what declarer saw at trick one after West led Heart-small9:

South Deals
None Vul
K
K Q J 8
10 8 3
K J 8 7 2
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
A Q 6 5 4 2
A
K 9 7
A 9 5
West North East South
      1 
Pass 2  Pass 3 
Pass 4  All pass  
4  by South

 

The bidding and final contract were very reasonable. North did not want to try 3NT without a diamond hold and thus raised with what seemed a rather useful singleton.

It would be a sad day for declarer to lose more than one spade (on a 4-2 break) and two minor cards. Indeed, an even spade break would give declarer a reasonable shot for 12, even 13 tricks…but not the way our declarer played.

That heart lead seemed very friendly. So, declarer won and led a spade to the king. All good so far. However, South thought he would take some discards while in dummy. He pitched one diamond on the Heart-smallK and another on the Heart-smallQ. Even though West ruffed this, the contract was still makeable. West switched to a low club and South saw he could take a free finesse of the Club-smallQ. He inserted the Club-smallJ from dummy, which won the trick..and then took the wrong way home.

South Deals
None Vul
K
K Q J 8
10 8 3
K J 8 7 2
10 9 8 7
9 3
Q 6 5
Q 10 4 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
J  3
10 7 6 5 4 2
A J 4 2
6
 
A Q 6 5 4 2
A
K 9 7
A 9 5
West North East South
      1 
Pass 2  Pass 3 
Pass 4  All pass  
4  by South

 

At that point, South must play the Heart-smallJ discarding the Diamond-smallK to succeed . West ruffs and gives East a club ruff for the defence's third trick but declarer can ruff another heart high and draw West's remaining trump to scramble home.

After winning the Club-smallJ, South actually played a club which was ruffed by  East who cashed the Diamond-smallA and played a fourth heart which was ruffed high by declarer with Spade-smallA. Declarer played Spade-smallQ  but the high Spade-small10 was the fourth trick for the defence…down one. When the club was first played by West, declarer should have won in hand with the ace (do not even play the jack) ,drawn trumps and then taken the club finesse. The news would have been good.

A combined 30 count but down in 4Spade-small. It just did not have to be that way. Certainly, the heart break was unfortunate but playing hearts could wait. After cashing the Spade-smallK, return to hand with the Club-smallA and play two top spades. Even if East had a four card spade suit, it is hard to imagine one would lose more than a trump and two diamonds. If either defender has 4 trumps, give them their trump trick before you cross back to dummy. You want to enjoy all those heart tricks! If trumps break 5-1 or even 6-0, you will need to rethink and require a lot of luck!

Should trumps break 3-3, you are safe to play a club to the king and discard 3 diamonds on the remaining hearts, losing only to the Club-smallQ. If you were to finesse the club successfully, you would make all 13!

Bad trump breaks are awkward. However, to go down in 4Spade-small with 30hcp and a fairly even trump break is just careless. So, be careful next time you take what appears to be a free finesse. They say there is no such thing as a “free lunch”.  Sometimes, the same could be said about a finesse too.

Free lunch.png

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

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