Hand of the Week, Vol. 2 No. 23

Here's a declarer play problem faced by North at the 10 July 2009 North American Pairs qualifying game. You opened a weak 2S, LHO overcalled 3H, and partner raised spades. The defense starts by cashing the HAK, and you trump the HJ at trick 3. You're obviously going to lose one diamond trick too. If you're in 4S you need to avoid losing a trick to the SQ to make it; if you're in 3S your contract is safe but you still want to take your best chance for the overtrick.

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

"Eight ever, nine never" is a nursery rhyme for beginning bridge players not yet ready to think for themselves. In the absence of any other information playing off the two top spades works a tiny bit more often than the finesse does (52% of the time.) But here you have some additional very important information: hearts broke 6-1. This leaves seven non-hearts in East's hand to twelve non-hearts in West's. We now expect that a key unseen card (like the SQ here) will be with West 12/19ths (63%) of the time.

Cash the SK (in case either opponent has a singleton SQ) and then finesse against West.

Incidentally, as South I recommend bidding only 3S, not going all the way to game. Notice that your partner had a maximum and still needed a finesse to make ten tricks. North would have made the same opening without the CK and you'd need luck on your side to score even nine tricks.

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This page last updated 24.08.09
©2009 Gordon Bower