Almost Bridge 7F49   Main

Do It with Finesse

  by Richard Pavlicek

North on this deal was Juan Morehook, author of the acclaimed Do It with Finesse, a best-selling bridge book. Playing rubber bridge for high stakes, Morehook was losing his shirt. It seemed that on every deal he would become dummy and watch his partner go down. This board was the final straw, as he tossed his wallet on the table. “Here, take it all!”

The bidding was reasonable, though 3 H could be set four tricks if South had guessed to pass for penalty. With only North-South vulnerable, however, it seemed better to bid game in a minor, and there might be a slam if Morehook had a better hand; hence the 4 H cue-bid. The 5 C follow-up implied both minors, so Morehook would bid 5 D with longer diamonds.

Board 12
N-S Vul
S A 8 4 3
D A 7 6 5
C Q J 5 4
3 H
All Pass
4 S
4 H
5 C
S 7 6
H Q 10 9 8 7 6 5
D 10
C 10 9 8
Table S K Q J 10 9 5
D K Q 9 8
C 3 2
5 C South
Lead: C 10
S 2
H A 4 3 2
D J 4 3 2
C A K 7 6

West led a trump. He had read in Morehook’s book, “When in doubt lead trumps,” which for this player would be every time it’s his turn. Declarer won in hand and tried to take advantage of his ruffing power: spade to the ace; spade ruff; heart to the king; spade ruff. Oops! West overruffed and returned his last trump, so it was hopeless after that.

“Sorry,” South apologized, “I should have ruffed high.” Everyone at the table was quick to point out that this wouldn’t matter — South could not succeed that way. “Well, perhaps I can set up the diamonds then,” South persisted.

No, that won’t work either. Perhaps you can find the solution. It might help if you understood the principles of Morehook’s book.

Read the Damn Book!

“Once again I refer you to my book,” Morehook elaborated. “Page 317 clearly states that any finesse, no matter how trivial, should be taken if possible. You missed an opportunity. Win the club lead in hand and take the spade finesse. That’s right, the spade finesse. Lead the S 2 and cover West’s seven with the eight.”

“But that can’t win,” South argued.

“Yes it does!” Morehook explained. “Your definition of a winning finesse is not the same as mine. The outcome of the actual trick is not important; it’s the intangible prognosis that matters. I’m sure I’ve won more tricks from finesses that appeared to lose than any living player. I often feel guilty about this.

“East can win the spade and return whatever he likes — let’s say, a heart. Win the H K and ruff a spade low; lead a trump to dummy and ruff a spade with your last trump. Cash the H A and ruff a heart to reach dummy. This is the ending:

C win 4 S A
D A 7 6
H Q 10 9
D 10
C 9
Table S K Q
D K Q 9
North leadsS
H 4
D J 4 3 2

“When you draw the last trump with North’s queen, East is squeezed. If he throws a diamond, you can establish a diamond trick while you still have the S A. If East throws a spade, you will cash the S A and lead a low diamond to endplay him. Of course, I could see this immediately after the opening lead. In your case it might take a little longer… perhaps 20 years.”

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© 1997 Richard Pavlicek