Hand of the Week #3

Here is a declarer-play decision that people faced during the Tuesday evening game on January 15th.

You deal yourself a flat 8-count and find yourself in three notrump:

S A T 5
H 3
D K 9
C A K J 9 4 3 2
S K 7 4
H J 9 8 6
D A 7 6 3
C T 6


Your left-hand opponent leads the H4: 3, ace, six. RHO returns another heart: ten, jack, queen, and you discard a spade from the table. LHO puts you in at trick three: H2, C2, H5, H8.

If you succesfully run the clubs, you'll take all the rest of the tricks and make five. If, however, you lose a club and the rest of the hearts, you may go down. How do you play the clubs?

* * *

"Eight ever nine never" tells us that, if we know nothing else about the rest of the hand, cashing the ace and king of clubs works slightly more often than finessing does.

BUT, there is another consideration that is much more important. Based on the bidding and the play to the first three tricks, hearts are breaking 5-3. If you lose a trick to LHO, you will be set; if you lose a trick to RHO he has no more hearts to lead, and you will just make four instead of five.

Therefore, you must finesse the club. You will get 430 half the time and 460 half of the time. If you cash the ace and king of clubs, you'll get 460 slightly more than half the time -- but 430 about one-quarter of the time, when RHO has the long clubs, and go down one-quarter of the time when LHO has the long clubs along with his hearts.

About the bidding: many players -- myself included -- would have responded 1H, not 1D. If you do respond 1H you'll likely have an uncontested auction, 1C 1H 3C 3NT. You should still reach the same conclusion as above, based on seeing RHO play first the ace, then the ten, then the five of hearts. If RHO had four or five hearts, he would win and return a small heart, not unblock his ten.

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This page last updated 16.06.08
©2008 Gordon Bower