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                                                      guess which one?

Finesse for slam.

Today’s deal might seem rather straightforward but the opening lead created another option for the declarer.

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North Deals
None Vul

10 8 7 5 3

K Q 5 2

J 7

Q 7

   

N

W

 

E

S

   
 

A K Q J 4

8 4

A K 8

A J 9

 

West

North

East

South

 

Pass

Pass

2 NT

Pass

3 ♣

Pass

3 ♠

Pass

4 

Pass

6 ♠

All pass

 

 

 

2NT showed a flat 22-23 hcp hand with 3Club-small being a major suit enquiry. South showed a 5-card spade suit in bidding 3Spade-small after which North made a slam try in bidding 4Heart-small. With all those controls, South jumped immediately to slam, knowing that surely some of their partner’s high cards would be in hearts: they certainly were not in spades!

West led Diamond-small9 with declarer calling for Diamond-smallJ from dummy. East put in Diamond-smallQ and South’s Diamond-smallA took the first trick. What’s your plan to make 12 tricks? (trumps broke 2-1).

If one ever has seen a 50% slam, then in theory, this is it. If, for instance, West had led a trump, South would draw trumps, cross to dummy and take the club finesse. There is a certain heart loser so that South would really appreciate the club finesse being successful.

However, the Diamond-small9 lead created a diversion. With the clattering of honours at trick 1, South could make their contract if the diamond finesse worked, that is finessing East for Diamond-small10. North’s potential club loser would disappear on the third round of diamonds.

So, without too much thought, South drew trumps in two rounds finishing in dummy with Spade-small10. They then took what seemed to be a marked finesse against East’s Diamond-small10. That line ran into a small problem:

North Deals
None Vul

10 8 7 5 3

K Q 5 2

J 7

Q 7

6 2

J 3

10 9 6 5 4

8 6 5 4

 

N

W

 

E

S

 

9

A 10 9 7 6

Q 3 2

K 10 3 2

 

A K Q J 4

8 4

A K 8

A J 9

 

West

North

East

South

 

Pass

Pass

2 NT

Pass

3 ♣

Pass

3 ♠

Pass

4 

Pass

6 ♠

All pass

 

 

 

It’s one of those hands when teammates might ask “ how did you go down when the club finesse was working?”

It was certain that South had to take a finesse but which one? South might have done better. They should have enquired about East-West’s approach to honour opening leads. In such a situation, the Diamond-small10 would be considered an honour. Maybe they led the second highest. South presumed not but did not ask.

Of course, it may be that West intended to deceive with their choice. If so, then the deception was a remarkable success. We do not need to stick to our rules especially when leading against slams. Fooling partner is fine as long as one fools the declarer as well!

Yet, South should not have been in such a rush to take the all-important finesse. Maybe, draw trumps in hand and then lead a heart towards dummy. Now, you can see that, were West to hold Heart-smallA, they can afford to duck the first round of hearts or indeed exit safely with a heart, even if they took their ace. West might not realise that is the case. The lead of either minor by West when in with Heart-smallA will give South their contract. It should not happen but give the defenders a chance to err.

Of course, this time it is East who wins the Heart-smallA. What will they exit? It could, but is unlikely to be a heart. Normally, in this position, a defender will exit in the suit where they do not hold an honour, putting declarer to an immediate guess. No guarantees, of course, but when East exits a diamond, South may wonder about that opening lead. Why did East not exit with a club? At the very least, they will waste a fair amount of nervous energy which could have better saved for the remaining boards. That Diamond-small9 lead gave South a problem which they did not solve.

Maybe, it was just too hard but it would seem South could have done just a little better before making the all-important decision.

 Congratulations, though, to Kerri McCrae, who was the only defender (along with partner Carol Bearsley) to record a plus score on this board with her off-beat lead.

Richard Solomon

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