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Eight Never, Nine Ever

  by Richard Pavlicek

Almost every bridge player has heard the cliche “Eight ever, nine never” as advice about finessing for a queen. The general rule is to finesse with eight cards, or play for the drop with nine cards. If this looks like my title, you may be dyslexic. Sometimes things are all backwards, as shown by this deal from a recent IMP team match.

In a spirited auction, North’s final raise to 3 NT was well-judged with his strong diamond suit. On a good day partner would have a trick in each major, and diamonds would run for nine tricks. Alas, this was not such a good day, at least in the diamond department.

West dealsS 8 4WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH J1 S2 DPass2 NT
D A K J 10 8 73 H3 NTPassPass
C A 7 5 3Pass
S A Q 7 6 2TableS 10 9 5
H A Q 9 8 6H 10 7 4 3
D 6 4D Q 5 3
C 10C Q 9 2
S K J 3
H K 5 2
D 9 2
3 NT SouthC K J 8 6 4

Declarer got some good news at trick one when dummy’s H J held, allowing the king to breathe for a while. The tenuous stoppers in the majors made one thing clear: Don’t lose the lead to East! Accordingly, declarer won the C A and led a club to the jack, eschewing the nine-never rule for safety. It worked!

Declarer next led a diamond to the king (no miracles) then ran the rest of the clubs. West discarded well, pitching three spades and a heart, so he was able to follow suit when South next led a diamond. Eight ever? Not this time!

Winning the D A provided a virtual lock. Left with S K-J-3 H K-5, declarer led a spade to the jack and queen. West was now forced to give declarer his ninth trick. Even in the unlikely event West had D Q-x-x, the endplay would still work.

So there you have it, folks: Nine clubs — take a finesse. Eight diamonds — play for the drop. Go figure.

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© 2003 Richard Pavlicek