I'm playing in a 2-session regional compact KO. Between
sessions, I'm giving a lecture on finesses. Today is
July 5th ("Independence Day Observed" in the US), so my
theme is "not all finesses are created equal."
In the first half, everyone is vulnerable, and I hold
83 K52 AQ8 AQ764
I'm dealer. We are playing strong notrumps, and this
one certainly qualifies. Partner bids Stayman, I deny,
and he bids 3. That's natural and game forcing
and promises a major; we have ways to show single-suited
minors without Stayman. It doesn't promise the moon,
however, so we are not necessarily in a slam auction.
Therefore, I bid 3, so that partner can judge
between 3NT and 5 if that is his goal. We may
even end up playing 4 if he has four strong
hearts and weak spades. Partner bids 3, and
I have my first real decision. I can retreat to 4,
or I can be a little more encouraging with 4. I
think it's close, but while I have a minimum in high
cards, I like my hand for diamonds. Two and a half key
cards, a possible source of tricks, a possible ruffing
value, and lots of controls...I take the high road.
That's enough for partner. He leaps to slam in diamonds.
While LHO ponders his lead, I realize that I'm playing
I get a small trump lead and see
Pfui! On any lead but a trump, this is a fine slam,
requiring roughly one of two finesses and nothing horrible's
happening. On a trump lead, I can only ruff one of dummy's
spades in hand, so I am two tricks short. I start with one
spade, two hearts, five diamonds, and one club, for nine
tricks in high cards. I can maneuver one spade ruff for
ten, so I need to find two more tricks. There are two obvious
finesses to get them, but 25% seems like poor odds. Can I
improve my chances?
How about setting up the clubs? If they are 4-3, I can win
the trump, club and a club ruff, duck a spade, win the trump,
ruff a club, ruff a spade, ruff a club. Whoops...each hand
has been shortened, so they'll have a long trump. I won't
be able to cash the long club. But I can set them up if I
take a successful club finesse. Club hook, club ruff, duck
a spade. Win the trump, ruff a club, ruff a spade, ruff
a club, draw trumps, and claim. There are chances if clubs
aren't 4-3 (mostly the heart finesse), so this looks like
the best general approach.
Before I commit to it, is there any edge to leading spades
from hand? Yes, RHO may win and not have a trump, or might
choose to shift to clubs. If I duck a spade at Trick 2 and
a trump comes back and then the club finesse loses, I'm
going down more than one. That won't matter much; at the
other table, they almost certainly won't be in slam, so the one
IMP or so for going down two or three probably isn't relevant.
I need to make the hand.
I win the trump cheaply in hand and float the 8 to
the 10. RHO thinks about this for a little bit, but
returns a trump. Rats. I win in dummy and start my plan.
Crossing my fingers, I take a club hook. It works! Since
I don't want to discard from dummy now, and there's no gain
from playing the A, I ruff a club as each follow.
Next, cash the A and ruff a spade. RHO drops the
Q and LHO the J on this trick. It looks like
LHO started with KJxx, which is why he led a trump.
Anyway, I ruff another club. If both follow, all I need
is 3-2 trumps and I can claim. Nope, LHO shows out, so
clubs are 2-5. That's OK, though; if trumps are breaking,
I'm home without the heart finesse, assuming that LHO has
the long spade. Even if I weren't pretty sure about that
from the lead and early play, the 2-5 club break makes it
The position is
I draw the last trump. RHO pitches a heart, as do I, and
LHO follows. Now I cross to the K and cash (finally!)
the A. LHO has to keep his spade, so he pitches a
heart. I pitch the spade from dummy. I play a heart up and
play the ace. I'm gratified to see the Q fall, since
RHO could have had the black kings left, though that was a
little unlikely. As expected, the double squeeze worked.
If I have time during my talk, perhaps I shall discuss this
hand, and note that the club finesse was essential, but the heart
finesse was irrelevant. Happy Independence Day!
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Goldsmith