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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

EARLY IN THE YEAR BUT END PLAY

If this deal looks kind of familiar to some of you, then you are “kind of “right. It is a "what might have been" deal, a deal that could have left less experienced declarers moaning at their bad luck. That’s right. 2017, the year of the failing finesse..just like every year before it! In fact, one of the heart honours on the deal below, from the John Eldridge Teams in Thames, was in the East hand but you would want to make your contract no matter which defender held the missing red suit honours.

You have probably heard it said that good players only take finesses when there is no other option. An end play is a technique which can involve a finesse which loses but the loss will ultimately be to the declarer’s advantage:

 

South Deals
Both Vul
A 7 6 4
10 8 7 4
A 7
J 9 7
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
K 10 9 8 5 3
A J 9 2
Q 8
10
West North East South
      1 
2  3  Pass 4 
All pass      

 

Only 10 high card points but your hand conforms with “the rule of 20” (add the length of your two longest suits to your high card point total and if the answer is 20 or more, open at the 1 level.) while you would never open the hand as a weak 2 with such a good 4 card major on the side, indeed any 4 card major, would you? Your partner invited game (aces are good cards) and you had the shape and ambition to accept. A singleton in the opponent’s suit was not bad either.

West leads the Club-smallA followed by another club to East’s queen. Over to you?

You do not want to lose three red suit tricks in addition to the club though if you take a couple of heart finesses, you will be doing so into the hand which overcalled without seemingly the Club-smallKQ (look at the club play to trick 2.)

So, can we avoid losing two heart tricks if West has the Heart-smallKQx? The answer is that we have a very good chance of doing so. Firstly, draw trumps. They are not going to break 3-0 (i.e. a certain loser). You have willed it so! Be careful, though, as you may need two entries to dummy after you have drawn trumps. So, cash Spade-smallK and then play Spade-smallT to dummy’s ace, preserving two low trumps in your hand.

You are going to “eliminate” those minor suits from your and dummy’s hands. So, ruff the last club in hand (with Spade-small8) and then play Diamond-smallA and a second diamond. If East were to hold the Diamond-smallK, you have lost nothing since when West wins a heart trick eventually, they could exit a low diamond safely. However, when West has the Diamond-smallK, you are in the driving seat.

South Deals
Both Vul
A 7 6 4
10 8 7 4
A 7
J 9 7
Q
K Q 5
K J 9
A 8 6 4 3 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
J 2
6 3
10 6 5 4 3 2
K Q 5
 
K 10 9 8 5 3
A J 9 2
Q 8
10
West North East South
      1 
2  3  Pass 4 
All pass      

 

West has either to open up the heart suit or else give you a ruff and discard. Say they do the latter. You ruff in dummy, throwing a small heart from hand. Now play a heart to the 9. West wins but is faced with the same dilemma. Contract made, no matter which opponent has the Heart-smallK .

An alternative approach would have been to ruff the club after drawing trumps, cross back to dummy and play a low heart to the 9. Using this approach, you may make an overtrick (not when West holds HKQx) as a ruff and discard will allow you to throw the diamond loser away.

Two failing finesses but no worries as your contract still makes. Remember to eliminate side suits (like clubs, maybe diamonds, above) and then throw in the opponent whose exit can only benefit you. A nice way to “start” and “end” a year.

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

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