Thursday, December 13, 2007

Skip “Unnecessary” Finesse?
Think Long and Hard First
by Jim Kaplan

You’re playing a suit contract, when your left-hand opponent leads a low card in a side (non-trump) suit. Here’s your holding:

DUMMY
A Q x x

YOU
x

So you don’t take the finesse, right?

Not so fast. Let’s give you all the hands as they lay at the Northampton Bridge Club on December 4, with South dealing and no one vulnerable:

NORTH
S 7 6 5 4
H K 7
D A Q 6 5
C 8 4 2

WEST EAST
S A 9 3 S Q J 10 8
H J 9 2 H 10 8
D K J 8 3 D 10 7 4 2
C 9 6 3 C A 10 7

SOUTH
S K 2
H A Q 6 5 4 3
D 9
C K Q J 5

The bidding proceeded as follows:

South West North East
1H Pass 1S Pass
2C Pass 2NT Pass
3H All Pass

Opening lead: diamond 3

We should have been in 4H. If I had rebid 3H instead of 2C, partner would have raised to 4H. I still had a chance after partner’s 2NT (a slight overbid), but I blew it by bidding 3H instead of 4H. In the future, I’ll tell partner that any continuation over 2NT is forcing. Even if I had simply rebid 2H, as some would, game was reachable by a 1H-1S-2H-3H-4H auction. Oh, well, there was still time to blow the play, too.

So we’re back to the original question: should I have finessed on the opening lead? I didn’t. After winning the diamond ace, I drew trump and led the club king. East won and led the spade queen through my king for a quick two tricks. When clubs broke 3-3, I was lucky to make 10 tricks for +170. The other scores: three went down one for -50, three scored +170, five scored +420 and one got a top +450.

There was a reasonable chance that West led away from the diamond king, since a low card usually promises an honor. If I had finessed the diamond queen on the opening lead, I could have thrown a spade loser on the diamond ace and made five for a tied top in a game contract and seven matchpoints instead of the 4.50 I got in my underbid. Granted, there was some risk. If East held the diamond king, he’d have won the first trick, led the spade queen for two more tricks and eventually won the club king, giving me an abysmal +140 or setting me in 4H.

But how likely was that? Both the diamond king and the spade ace had to be inconveniently placed, costing me two finesses. That’s only a 25 percent chance.

So the next time you think about passing up an “unnecessary” finesse, think twice.

P.S.: There’s another reason to finesse on the opening lead. Think ahead. If clubs don’t break 3-3 — and there’s only a 36 percent chance they will — you’ll have two losers in the suit. Therefore, if you go up with the diamond ace, you should lead toward the spade king right away and hope East has the ace. Not a very appetizing prospect.

1 comment:

Liz Castro said...

In case you're curious, like I was, about who made the 450... it was Sally Gauthier and Susan Rudd in Board 8 :)