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Good Card Reading Averts Finesse

  by Richard Pavlicek

The American Contract Bridge League presents annual awards to players who, statewide, win the most masterpoints within various categories. I am happy to announce the “Master of the Year” for 1986 is Joe Dolman of Ft. Lauderdale, a regular player (and Vice President) of the Ft. Lauderdale Bridge Club. Today’s deal shows why he is a consistent winner.

6 H South
N-S Vul
S 9
H K J 9 8
D A 7 5 2
C J 9 6 2

2 S

3 C
3 S
4 NT
6 H

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

Lead: S Q
H A Q 7 5 4
D K 10 4
C A Q 7

Dolman, South, opened with a strong, artificial two-club bid and West overcalled in spades. North held ample values to bid, but lacking a long suit he chose to pass it around to South, who bid two notrump to show a balanced hand. Three clubs was Stayman and South showed his heart suit. This delighted North, who cue-bid three spades to show slam interest. South cooperated with a control-bid in clubs, and North placed the final contract after checking for aces with Blackwood.

Six hearts was a fine contract, but destined to fail. Most declarers would attempt the club finesse and, with the unfriendly club lie, succumb to defeat. Dolman, however, reasoned: West, because of his overcall, was likely to hold the club king; and further, because of his known spade length, this card was likely to be a doubleton (or singleton). He backed his judgment in the play. After drawing trumps in three rounds, he continued with the ace and a low club toward the jack. When the king popped as expected, the rest was easy — he later threw his diamond loser on the club jack. Well done.

Six hearts making six was worth 1430 points and an excellent matchpoint score. It should be noted that East-West had a profitable sacrifice bid of six spades. While this is routinely down five (doubled, of course), the score is only 900 points. Nonetheless, good duplicate players know that slam sacrifice bids are rarely rewarding because not all pairs will bid the slam; and sometimes the slam will be defeated, as was the case here for most North-South pairs.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek