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Skillful Play Avoids Finesse

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is from the Swiss Team event at the North Florida Regional held last month in Jacksonville. Sitting South was Bill Passell of Coral Springs, one of the country’s leading bridge players and teachers. The bidding is exemplary of a top-notch partnership.

6 H South
None Vul
S A Q 8 5
H 10 5 3
D 7 6 2
C K 6 3

2 S

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

Lead: D 10
H A K Q J 9 8 2
D A 4 3
C A J 4

South’s two-club opening was artificial showing a strong hand (other two-bids would be weak — the modern style) and West made a nuisance overcall of two spades. North responded two notrump to show eight or more points with a spade stopper, and South bid his real suit.

The next three bids were “control-bids” (commonly known as cue-bids): Three spades showed the spade ace; four clubs, the club ace; five clubs, the club king (once the ace of a suit has been shown, the next control-bid shows the king). South then took the final plunge into slam.

West gave nothing away with his diamond lead, and declarer could count 11 easy tricks. The success of the contract appeared to depend on the club finesse (the marked spade finesse obviously could not be taken), but South was not about to settle for this.

To improve his chances, he led out all of this trumps. West’s discarding made it apparent that he was guarding clubs (he let go three diamonds and four spades), so South rejected the doomed finesse and opted for a throw-in play.

South cashed the club ace, club king, and exited with a club to West, whose forced spade return gave dummy the last two tricks.

Alternatively, in the five-card ending, South could have crossed to the club king, cashed the spade ace, and exited with the spade queen to endplay West in clubs. Either way, West was helpless to defeat the contract.

Oh yes, the Passell team went on to win the event.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek