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Finessing Technique Is Culprit

  by Richard Pavlicek

Every bridge player knows that 26 is the accepted point-count requirement for a partnership to bid game, but it is very rare when these points are all in one hand — as witness the South hand.

6 NT South
N-S Vul
S 9 8 3
H 10 7 5 4
C Q 10 9 7 4


4 C
4 NT
6 NT

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

Lead: D 10
H A Q 3
D K Q J 3
C A J 3

When the deal arose in a local team game, South properly opened three notrump to show game-in-hand and balanced distribution. North had only six points, but the possibility of a trump fit increased the chance of slam. Four clubs was Stayman (like two clubs over one notrump), and South rebid four diamonds to deny a four-card major. Four notrump was natural (not Blackwood) and South pushed on with five notrump, meaning… well, no one was sure. North should have bid six clubs — an excellent contract — but greedily tried six notrump instead.

West found the troublesome diamond lead, and the club 10 was led for a successful finesse. Another club was led to the jack as East again played low. Declarer now had 13 tricks, except for one small hitch — he couldn’t get to the dummy! There still was hope of winning 12 tricks, so declarer cashed all of his winners except the heart ace to reach a three-card ending, in which each player held only hearts. Inexplicably, South then led the heart queen (an inferior play) and had to lose two more tricks. Note that a low heart would have worked nicely, giving declarer the last two tricks with the forced heart return.

Did you spot the earlier error? All the fancy card play at the end could have been avoided if declarer had manipulated the club suit correctly. Lacking entries to dummy, the proper play is to lead the queen and underplay with the jack from the South hand. (East of course must not play the king.) The club 10 is led for a second finesse; but now the lead remains in dummy, and a straight heart finesse brings home the slam. Simple, once you think of it.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek