Bridge: A fight to the finesse

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The Independent Culture
There were a variety of results on this deal from a recent international pairs event. The strange thing was that one table saw a game in which no- trumps failed, while at another a slam was bid and made in the same strain.

Love all; dealer East

North

A 4

K J 9 6

A 10 8

K J 6 5

West

10 9 6 2

10 2

4 3 2

10 9 4 2

East

K 8 7 5 3

Q 8 4 3

K 9

8 3

South

Q J

A 7 5

Q J 7 6 5

A Q 7

The auction usually began with One No-trump (15-17) by South, and a Stayman inquiry with a negative response. Some Norths settled for Three No- trumps, but the more adventurous suggested a slam with Four No-trumps - quantitative, not Blackwood - and at least one South accepted the invitation.

Consider first the problem on a spade lead. The finesse loses and East clears the suit. There are only eight tricks on top, and a finesse in either red suit loses immediately. A good idea is to cash four rounds of clubs, putting East under pressure. His best bet is to discard an untroubled nine of diamonds and a heart, and declarer will be hard-pressed to read the situation.

At one table, against Six No- trumps, West led a diamond. As he would have been unlikely to have led away from a king, a rather neat winning line would have been to win with the ace, cash three rounds of clubs, and exit with a diamond. This end-plays East and the 12th trick rolls in.

In practice, declarer finessed at trick 1, East won and returned a diamond. At an early stage, South led the queen of spades from hand and, when it was not covered, went up with the ace. This was a Vienna coup, for when the minor suit winners were taken, East had to discard from the king of spades and the queen, eight and four of hearts.

A heart went away but, although the squeeze had worked, South could not be sure who held the queen of hearts. He finessed, and so went two down.

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