Source: IBPA Bulletin Jul 2022
Larry Cohen
In the fall of 2009, I was on a seven-week cruise, teaching bridge in Asia. At night, I would often play deals with my students. This people-dealt deal arose in the China Sea. I held the North cards and South was one of my better students. This was the deal and the auction: Dealer West. E/W Vul
J A Q 9 8 2 8 7 5 A 10 4 3
8 4 2 5 4 Q J 10 6 J 9 8 6 Q 10 9 7 6 K 3 A K 4 3 Q 7
A K 5 3 J 10 7 6 9 2 K 5 2
West North East South
1 Pass
Pass Dbl Pass 3
Pass 4 End
After some optimistic bidding by me (North), declarer received a diamond lead. The defence led three rounds of diamonds and declarer ruffed, then took a heart finesse. He ended up losing two diamonds, a heart and, eventually, a club. When teaching, I stress that at suit contracts you must count losers. Here, there appears to be one too many: two diamonds, one heart and one club. After the deal, my partner asked me if he could have made it. What do you think? Would the deal be here if the answer was no? For starters, the heart finesse wasn’t likely to win. West had passed his partner’s opening, and had already shown the queen-jack of diamonds, so it was unlikely he could also have the king of hearts and have failed to respond with six HCP. So, I would not have taken the heart finesse. Some days, playing a heart to the ace would actually drop the singleton king offside – but not here. There is a way, however, to avoid the loss of the club trick. If clubs are three-three, there isn’t much that can be done but, if East has fewer than three clubs, he can be thrown in with good effect if his only remaining heart is the king. The first three tricks are diamonds, declarer ruffing the third round. Then comes a heart to the ace, with the bad news that the king doesn’t fall. All is not lost. Next, cash the top spades (throw a club from dummy) and ruff a spade. Then play the ace-king of clubs and ruff your last spade in dummy. Now, you just have to hope that when you play a heart that East will have no more clubs (nor a small heart with the king). In Real Life, he has to win his king of hearts and concede the rest. Whether he plays his last spade or diamond, you can throw a club from one hand and ruff in the other. The ruff-sluff gives you your contract. Do I expect my intermediate students to play a deal this way? Not at the table – especially with no warning bells or whistles. This one isn’t easy as it involves envisioning an ending after ten tricks have been played. However, once you realize the heart finesse is doomed, you can count three sure losers outside of clubs. This chance of East having a doubleton club and playing as shown can be worked out, but only with concentration and logic.

 Don’t forget to follow us @