Playing in a home team game of very mixed skill level,
an interesting play problem comes up.
West leads the Q. How do you play for 12 tricks?
With eight top tricks outside of hearts, we only need four
heart tricks. The standard safety play for four tricks is to
lead low from dummy planning to insert the 8. That
blows only to stiff 10 on the left, a little under 3%. 97%
isn't bad. On this hand, however, we can do better. Since
three tricks with no loser is good enough, we can cash the
A, catering to that singleton 10, and then lead
low to the 8. If East has all five hearts, he can
choose to split, in which case we knock out the other one
and claim, or he can duck. If he ducks, we have 11 tops
and can just duck a club to set up a 12th. If East shows
out on the A, we can lead toward the J for our
11th trick and then take a club finesse for 12. This line
loses only if hearts are 5-0 onside (about 2%) and the
club finesse loses. That's a little better than 99%.
If hearts are 5-0 in the West, and he doesn't continue diamonds
when he wins his Q, we can do even better than a club
finesse. If East has three or more clubs (pretty likely when
he has no hearts), we have an easy double squeeze around
diamonds. It's pretty likely that most players will return
a diamond (unless the Q was singleton, in which case
we are probably cold, as West will get squeezed in hearts
and clubs on the way to the double squeeze), but a weak
player may not. Then our odds go way up.
In real life, hearts were 5-0 offside, and clubs were
5-1 offside. Neither declarer found any safety play;
one went down two to lose two IMPs. Oh, well.
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Goldsmith