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Unlucky Finesse Was Unnecessary

  by Richard Pavlicek

When today’s deal occurred at a regional bridge tournament, the diagrammed bidding occurred at most tables. West’s two-notrump overcall was the “unusual” variety, showing at least five cards in each minor suit. North had ample values for his spade raise and South continued to game. The final contract was sound, but many declarers went astray in the play.

4 S South
None Vul
S Q 9 5 2
H Q 2
D A J 6
C 7 6 5 4

2 NT

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

Lead: C K
S K J 10 8 6 4
D K 4 2
C Q 3

West began by cashing two clubs and continued with a third club, declarer ruffing. After driving out the spade ace and drawing trumps, the contract appeared to depend on the diamond finesse. This was a strong favorite to succeed (based on the bidding), so most declarers cashed the diamond king and then led a diamond to dummy’s jack — ouch! East was more than happy to win his doubleton queen and the contract was defeated.

Unlucky? Yes, declarer was unlucky to find East with the diamond queen; but justice was served. Declarer was wrong in taking the diamond finesse at all. It was completely unnecessary!

What many declarers overlooked was the presence of dummy’s fourth club. That card was a threat against West, who would have to retain a high club throughout the play.

Before touching the diamond suit, declarer should lead all of his trumps and top hearts, reducing everyone to three cards. If West keeps two diamonds and a high club (as he must to protect clubs), then dummy’s last club is discarded to keep three diamonds.

The rest is easy. Declarer cashes the diamond king and leads a diamond toward dummy. When West follows small, it is obvious that he cannot have the queen. Why not? Because his remaining card is known to be a club. Therefore, the only logical play is go up with dummy’s ace. And great is the fall thereon.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek