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Bidding Reveals Winning Finesse

Last weekend the North American Junior Bridge Championship, a new event, was held in Memphis. The field consisted of the winners of the Collegiate Bridge Championship — Michael White, Mike Cappelletti, James Baker and David Williams of the University of Tennessee — plus 20 selected players, all under 24 years of age. At stake was a free trip to Nottingham, England, to compete in the World Junior Bridge Championship. The collegiate winners already had earned a berth, so just one other pair would be chosen to augment the team to six members.

My son Rich was among the contestants, partnered with Mark Caplan of North York, Ontario. Florida to Ontario was too long a distance to allow any advance practice, so I was not surprised when they finished in the middle of the pack. Nonetheless, it was a valuable experience, and they had a great time. Today’s deal was a bidding triumph.

7 H S A 3 2
H Q 9 6 4
D Q J 10 8 4
C 3
N-S Vul

West
3 C
Pass
Dbl
All Pass


North
Pass
4 NT
6 C


East
Pass
Pass
Pass


South
4 H
5 S
7 H
S K J 8
H 7
D 6 3
C K Q 10 9 7 6 4
Table S 10 9 7 6 5
H 10 8
D K 9 7 5
C J 8
Lead: C K S Q 4
H A K J 5 3 2
D A 2
C A 5 2

West’s preemptive opening was passed around to Mark, South, who jumped to four hearts. This showed a good hand, per the maxim “never preempt over a preempt,” so Rich, North, liked his chances for slam. Four notrump was Blackwood; South bid five spades (three aces), which West doubled (best attributed to youthful exuberance).

Knowing that all four aces were held, North saw that the diamond suit could be established by a finesse. And the finesse would surely work because of West’s weak bid and double of five spades. Therefore, he bid six clubs, hoping his partner would interpret this as the “grand slam force,” which asks for two of the top three trump honors. Mark did indeed. Seven hearts!

West led the club king, and declarer had no trouble getting rid of his spade loser on the diamond suit, thanks to the finesse.

In general, it is wrong to bid a grand slam depending on a finesse — you have more to lose than to gain — but that assumes the finesse is an even chance. In this case the diamond finesse was at least 90 percent (my guess), so the kids were on the ball.

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© 5-28-1989 Richard Pavlicek