Main     Article 7K60 by Richard Pavlicek    

To Finesse or Not?

The Vanderbilt Cup, just completed in Kansas City, Missouri, was anything but a typical North American championship. We were beaten on our own turf! The last team standing after seven days of competition were two Russians (Andrew Gromov, Aleksander Petrunin) and two Poles (Cezary Balicki, Adam Zmudzinski). The foursome played steadily throughout and won several matches with come-from-behind finishes.

This deal contributed heavily to their final-day win. In the closed room, the Russians bid accurately to 6 D and made seven after a spade lead. The same contract was reached in the open room, but Balicki (West) drew the right inferences from the North-South bidding and found the killing club lead.

6 D by South

None Vul
S K 2
H A J 6 4 3
D A Q 6 5
C 7 3
S Q J 8 4
H 10 9 7
D K 7 3
C Q 9 5
TableS 10 7 6 3
H Q 8 5 2
D
C K 10 8 6 2
Lead: C 5S A 9 5
H K
D J 10 9 8 4 2
C A J 4

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 H
3 D
4 D
5 D
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 D
3 NT
4 S
6 D

What was so “killing” about the club lead, you ask? Making 6 D is easy with any lead, and seven is always cold by establishing the fifth heart. Unfortunately, this is because you can see all four hands.

Declarer, Sam Lev of NYC, won East’s C K with the ace, and immediately cashed the H K. Dummy was entered with a spade to cash the H A (pitching a club), then a heart was ruffed. Next came the D J, ducked of course by Balicki. Would you have taken the finesse? If so, you’d be lucky — but it’s a technical error.

Lev knew that if diamonds split normally (2-1) he could succeed anytime East held the D K or anytime West held the H Q (barring an unlikely overruff on the third round of spades) by establishing the fifth heart. This offered better odds than a 50-50 finesse, so he won the D A. Alas, the expert play meant down one.

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© 2001 Richard Pavlicek