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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Success without Finesse!

50% they work and 50% they fail. “Really” many query? “Mine always seem to fail!”. In case yours do always fail, especially when you really want them to work, how about trying to avoid taking a finesse unless you really must?

South did not have to on this board. In fact, South really should have been getting the coffees rather than worrying about how to play these cards:

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

 

West led Spade-small5 to the Spade-smallJ and East’s Spade-smallQ. Next came Spade-smallA followed by a third spade. You hold your breath but West produces first Spade-small5 and then Spade-small2. You are alive but are in dummy. What next?

Looking back at the bidding.

After South’s wise initial pass, North opened a Multi 2Diamond-small. There is one position that South does not want to be in the play of the hand if at all possible and that is declarer. That can be avoided by being able to bid 2Spade-small in response to 2Diamond-small, showing less than game interest and better hearts than spades. When North shows 22-23 balanced (or whatever your agreed point-count is), you can transfer and if you choose, raise to game. Keep the strong hand hidden and possibly the lead will help declarer. Had North opened 2Club-small and rebid 2NT, South would do that with a transfer… so best to anticipate this outcome when your partner opens 2Diamond-small.

Back then to the problem. Our declarer decided to cross to their hand by playing three rounds of clubs and Diamond-smallA and ruff a diamond. All good so far.

Then came the trump finesse, which, naturally lost… and the roof fell in!

South Deals
None Vul
K J 8
A Q 7
A 10 2
A K Q J
6 5 3
J 3
K J 8 7 5
8 6 4
 
N
W   E
S
 
A Q 7 2
K 6
Q 4 3
10 9 3 2
 
10 9 4
10 9 8 5 4 2
9 6
7 5

 

East’s little club sealed declarer’s fate with the Heart-smallJ being the fourth defensive trick. Unlucky? Yes. Avoidable? Definitely!

If East has Heart-smallKJx or KJxx, then there would be no way to avoid two trump losers. Say West has all four trumps? If you take a first round trump finesse, probably playing Heart-smallQ, you will go down but such a 4-0 break is not that common while it is a pity to go down when the trumps break 2-2, as above, a much more common lie of the outstanding trumps.

Lay down Heart-smallA first. Yes, you will lose the chance of an overtrick when West has Kx but you will not go down in a contract you should have made.

After playing the Heart-smallA, you will need to get to the South hand to play the second round of trumps as West might hold Heart-smallKJx, which is more likely than KJxx. So, assuming you do not see Heart-smallJ come down, play three rounds of clubs, as before, (there are risks involved in this but that is what South did anyway) and then play Diamond-smallA and ruff the diamond. Now play your second trump.

West will either play Heart-smallK, Heart-smallJ or show out. In two out of three cases, you will be happy. Remember also, this line gains when the Heart-smallK is singleton in the East hand. East would not be happy in that case…but you will have a warm feeling inside!

So, another finessing failure…or success without finesse? You choose. The approach of cashing the trump ace first may even be better when you are missing five trumps including the KJ. It is certainly safer…and therefore better when you are just missing four.

It also applies should North be declarer and receive a safe club lead. While one spade could later be discarded on the fourth round of clubs, declarer will always have to play spades themselves...and must anticipate the effect of losing two tricks in that suit. Fear the worst in that suit and take the safety line in the trump suit... and survive!

Richard Solomon

 

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