Hand of the Week, Vol. 2 No. 6

The Friday 06 March game provided a wealth of instructive hands, covering basic and advanced ideas, in the bidding and in the play. I'll be covering at least three of these hands over the next couple of weeks.

We'll begin with a simple reminder about declarer play. The definition of a finesse: to lead toward an almost-high card in hopes you will win a trick with it. Not to lead the almost-high card and hope a sloppy defender forgets to cover it. If you had KJxxx opposite small cards, it would be crazy to lead the king, rather than leading small toward the jack and then later small toward the king.

Those basic principles still apply even if the ranks involved are shifted up or down by the presence or absence of an extra high card. With that in mind, look at this deal from Friday's game:

Dealer North
None vul
S Q T 7 3
H K T 8 6
D Q J 4 2
S A 8
H A 5
D A T 6
C Q T 8 6 4 2
[table marker] S J 9 5
H Q J 9 4
D 8 7 5 3
C A 5
S K 6 4 2
H 7 3 2
D K 9
C J 9 7 3

West declared in 3C at both tables, E-W refusing to sell out to 2S. (N-S can make 2S, though in practice they likely would go down one.) If North-South get their tricks set up before the HQ can be established for a discard, West figures to lose one spade, one heart, and two diamonds, along with deciding how to deal with the missing king, jack, and nine of trump.

The normal play in clubs is to cash the ace and lead a club back towards the CQT, deciding which to play based on what cards appear on the first round. On this deal the king pops up and it's easy to finesse against all of South's trumps. Declarer will likely still lose one club trick since he can't repeat the finesse again, but that's still a fine result compared to the well-deserved disaster that struck when one declarer led the CQ, guaranteeing the loss of at least two club tricks.

Remember: when you have the ace in one hand and the queen in the other, you finesse by leading toward the queen, not by leading the queen.

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This page last updated 10.03.09
©2009 Gordon Bower