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It’s All In The Finesses

It is not always easy to find the best contract nor, it seems, to find the right play if this deal from last night’s play is anything to go by. Let’s take a look:

Board 11 from Thursday 25/10/2018
Dealer S Nil Vul

Board#11 25/10/2018

When South opens 1D, there is no reason why West should do anything other than overcall 1H. Those people who have been taught to DOUBLE whenever they have an opening bid (ANY opening bid!) had better go find another tutor. So, West overcalls 1H and North passes. There is no reason why East should not bid 1S. This should be interpreted as a forward going bid but not forcing, since East could have passed 1H. West can now bid 1NT. That should be pretty descriptive of the hand, a decent overcall in hearts plus diamond stops. The logical next bid by East is then 3NT, or maybe 3C if East is bent on finding spade support. But the ace of diamonds should convince East to bid 3NT.

Just ONE pair at the Hutt club was in 3NT and that declarer failed to make. One East in 2S made an overtrick and four Wests played in part score in hearts, no declarer making more than nine tricks, some less. So, what was the problem in the play? I suggest not knowing how to finesse, what the odds of finessing are, and not keeping control and communicating between the two hands.

Let me address finessing first. South has opened the bidding so will almost certainly have at least 12 of the missing points. Hence there will be no danger in the diamond suit, a simple finesse to the jack will hold if North has started with a club and not partner’s diamond On a club lead, declarer can afford to let the club run and allow South to make the singleton king, declarer is still in full control.

Now let us turn our attention to the heart suit. One finesse is 50% therefore two finesses must have a 75% chance of success. There are two finesses available in the heart suit, and the 50% one is to first of all finesse by leading low to the NINE. If this loses, repeat the finesse and next lead to the JACK. Given that South is marked with most of the honour cards, this line will almost certainly succeed, and will also succeed when South has KTxx in hearts.

The play in a heart contract is trickier, especially if North starts with a low CLUB lead. If declarer diagnoses this as fourth highest from length, going up with the ace makes sense, because declarer can then take a heart finesse to the QUEEN at trick two and then clear the hearts from the top. Otherwise, losing the finesse to North will result in a second club, ruffed by South.

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