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Tales of Akarana

For Successful Finessers Only.

If you do not know how to take a successful finesse, then this week’s hand is not for you. Pack up, accept that you will get a minus score, never upgrade any hand again (just because you have a good 5-card suit and three potentially useful looking 10’s) and move on to the next board.

For those of you who are left, try making the following 4Spade-small contract on the lead of the Heart-small9 from West.

Board 23
South Deals
Both Vul
6 5 3
A K 6 5
9 7 5 3
Q J
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
A K J 10 7
10 7 2
A Q 10
5 4
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 3  Pass 3 
Pass 4  All pass  

 

1NT was 15-17 (OK with adding South's high card points?) and 3Club-small showed no slam interest and checked on opener’s majors. 3Spade-small showed 5 spades.

You have two certain club losers and almost certainly one in hearts. A small clue: West has not led away from Heart-smallQJ9! Also, when you play Heart-smallA at trick 1, East plays an encouraging low heart.

One approach might be to play for Spade-smallQ to be doubleton and then after drawing trumps, play for a 3-3 heart break, ducking the second round and eventually discarding Diamond-small10 on the 4th round of hearts (who said that 10 was useful!) and finally taking one successful diamond finesse for 10 tricks. That seems to be about 2%...and that line would have failed.

At our table, declarer played a diamond to the 10 at trick 2…successful finesse no 1. Next came Spade-smallA and a heart to dummy for a trump finesse (successful finesse no 2). Trumps broke 3-2. After drawing trumps, declarer exited a heart but East could win and play a second high heart which declarer had to ruff. The Diamond-smallK and Diamond-smallJ would not come down in the same trick! Down 1. Good try. Can you do better?

Board 23
South Deals
Both Vul
6 5 3
A K 6 5
9 7 5 3
Q J
9 4
9 8
8 6 4
A 10 9 8 7 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
Q 8 2
Q J 4 3
K J 2
K 6 3
 
A K J 10 7
10 7 2
A Q 10
5 4

 

Three finesses working but only two entries to dummy to take them. You did not only have to take successful finesses but to squeeze East or end-play West as well.

Win the first trick and play a diamond to the 10. Cash Spade-smallA (in case the queen appears) and exit a club. It does West no good to win this (we will see later). So, East wins to continue with Heart-smallQ. Dummy wins to take the successful spade finesse.

At this point, leaving the Spade-smallQ outstanding, exit a second club. West has only minor cards left (you just about know that) and either has to give you a ruff and discard (which you can use to win in dummy for a second diamond finesse) or take the finesse for you by playing a second diamond.

It does East no good to exit a second club when in with Club-smallK. West wins to play a second heart. Declarer wins in dummy and proceeds to play out all their trumps via the finesse. On the 4th round, East can throw Club-small3 but which card do they discard on the 5th trump from:

                        Spade-smallJ4     Heart-smallKJ    ?

 

Throw Diamond-smallJ and the game’s over but throw the little heart and declarer will exit to East….who must now take the third successful finesse for declarer.

A similar ending occurs were West to win the initial club exit and then play a second heart or a second club for East to win and to exit a heart. 5 rounds of spades will finish East. In the first case, East’s last four cards will be Heart-smallJ, Diamond-smallKJ Club-small K and in the second after an extra round of clubs, the same three- card ending as shown above. (no safe discard from Heart-smallJ4 and Diamond-smallKJ).

The key for South was to give up at least one club trick while there was still at least one trump on the table. If you cannot take all the successful finesses yourself, make the defence take them for you!

Of the 5 declarers in 4Spade-small, three were successful, twice after club leads and once after a rather helpful diamond lead. No-one mastered the heart lead though most of those who received it had decided “24 high” was not enough for game and were in the safety of part-score. Fortune favoured the brave but only accompanied by good timing.

Richard Solomon

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