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Free Finesse Ends Up Costing

  by Richard Pavlicek

The scene was the 1984 Fall North American Championships, held last November in San Diego, and the event was the Reisinger Team Championship — the premier event of the tournament. Today’s deal became an amusing topic of discussion when it occurred in a semifinal match.

The bidding is shown as it occurred at one table. South’s two-club opening was strong and artificial (the popular method of players who use weak two-bids in the other three suits) and North’s two-diamond response was negative (less than 8 points). After that the bidding was natural, South showing a long spade suit and North a heart suit.

4 S South
None Vul
S 10 4
H Q J 9 6 5
D 5 3
C J 10 6 2

2 D
3 H
4 S
2 C
2 S
3 S
S J 3
H 10 7 4
D A Q 8 4
C 8 7 4 3
TableS 9 6 5
H A K 3 2
D 10 9 7 6
C Q 9

Lead: C 3
S A K Q 8 7 2
H 8
D K J 2
C A K 5

Against four spades West chose a club lead. Declarer happily accepted the free finesse as dummy’s jack was covered by the queen and king. But this was declarer’s last happy moment. Try as he might, he could win only nine tricks. West stubbornly held on to his club length (preventing dummy’s fourth club from being high) and the contract was defeated.

At the other table declarer did not receive such a “friendly” lead. West led a heart to East’s king and East returned a trump, effectively preventing declarer from reaching dummy to take a finesse. After drawing trumps, declarer in desperation cashed the top clubs.

Bingo! With the queen falling, dummy’s jack and 10 were left unmolested to provide declarer’s ninth and 10th tricks.

And so it was. The declarer who received a favorable lead was defeated; and the declarer who received no help from the opponents made his contract.

Could there be a lesson here?

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek