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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

So Your Finesses Fail? Don’t Take Them!

We are going to continue last week’s theme about the age-old art of finessing. It’s possible after reading these two articles that you will not take a finesse ever again. If so, you will be the loser. However, there are times when a normal finesse is not the best approach.
You might argue that on the following hand where you have 9 trumps and are missing just the queen out of the top four cards that the percentage line (with no particular knowledge about defenders’ hands) is not to finesse but play off the two top honours. That is indeed correct. However, on this hand, there was one other significant card missing which should influence your line of play:

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

Plan the play after West leads a low spade and the jack scores at trick 1.

4Diamond-small was “Minorwood”, key card ask, with the 4NT response showing two of the 5 key cards (including Diamond-smallK) but not the Diamond-smallQ. South knew they were missing one key card along with the Diamond-smallQ and decided to be cautious as slam was by no means certain. They might have passed 4NT but elected to play in the “safety” of 5Diamond-small.

 With two hearts able to be discarded on dummy’s clubs, the only non-trump loser was the Heart-smallA. You could tell some pairs would be in slam and if the Diamond-smallQ came down in the first two rounds of the suit, then they would be recording +990 or +920 while you would have only +420. So, you rather hope that diamonds are 3-1 rather than 2-2.

Yet, what’s that other missing card which could be rather significant? The answer is the Diamond-small10. If after winning trick 1, you start off with Diamond-smallK, you could be in for a nasty shock:

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

Suddenly, you have two trump losers..unlucky, anti-percentage but it can happen and the contract should still have been made. What a shame was that there was not the same care in the play as they was in the bidding.

An important card from South’s point of view is the positioning of the Diamond-small9 in dummy. You can handle any diamond break, losing no more than one trick in the suit, as long as you start by laying down the high honour first in the hand with the Diamond-smallJ.

If both opponents follow, just play a second diamond by playing low to the king.

If West shows out on the first round, play to dummy’s Diamond-smallK and a third diamond towards the jack. East can only score Diamond-smallQ.

If it is East who shows out, when you lead low towards the king, you simply beat whichever card West plays, thus restricting West to just one trump trick. 100%..guaranteed.   

The same safety play exists when you have a 4-4 fit with the same two top 5 cards missing and the AK and the jack and 9 in different hands as above. Playing Pairs, we might be lulled into taking a simple finesse of the jack to avoid any losers in the suit though playing Teams, where you can afford one loser, there is no excuse for not taking the safety play as detailed above.

If you had to play the diamond suit above (5-4 fit) for no losers because you were in slam, then start off with the Diamond-smallK since you can still avoid a loser if East has all four diamonds whereas you can never do that if West has all four. If both opponents follow and no queen appears on the first round, your partner will appreciate your doing the right thing (whatever that is) and not losing to the Diamond-smallQ.

See, sometimes we do take finesses..and successful ones, too!
Richard Solomon

 



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