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Do It with Finesse

North on this deal was Juan Morehook, author of the acclaimed best selling bridge book, Do It with Finesse. He was playing in a high-stakes bridge game and losing his shirt. It seems that on every deal he would become dummy and watch his partner go down. After this deal he had had enough; he threw his wallet on the table and said, “Here, take it!”

5 C by South

N-S Vul
S A 8 4 3
H K
D A 7 6 5
C Q J 5 4
S 7 6
H Q 10 9 8 7 6 5
D 10
C 10 9 8
TableS K Q J 10 9 5
H J
D K Q 9 8
C 3 2
Lead: C 10S 2
H A 4 3 2
D J 4 3 2
C A K 7 6

West
3 H
Pass
All Pass
North
Dbl
4 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
4 H
5 C

The bidding was well judged, except for the fact that 3 H could be set four tricks if South had guessed to pass for penalty. Only North-South were vulnerable, however, so it seemed better to proceed toward game — in fact there could be a slam in a minor suit, though not in this case with Morehook’s skimpy double.

West led a trump. He had read in Morehook’s book, “When in doubt lead trumps,” which for this player would be every time. South 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 there was no hope 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 unimportant; it is the intangible prognosis that matters. I’ll bet I’ve lost more finesses and gained more tricks than any living player! I often feel guilty about this.

“East can win the spade and return whatever he wants — 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:

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

“When you draw the last trump with North’s queen, East has a problem discarding. 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… perhaps a few more weeks.”

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© 1997 Richard Pavlicek