Maritha Pottenger

Hands are from Adventures in Bridge on September 5, 2018. Hand 21 was a classic example of a hand where Declarer has a two-way finesse in one suit, and therefore wants to delay making the decision about that suit until she has collected as much information as possible.

Hand 21

South: KJ10xx Kx AJx AQJ

North: Ax Axx KQxxx Kxx

Our N/S pair reached 6NT. (Some pairs bid up to 7NT, and several went down when they misguessed the spade suit). The auction was a bit strange at our table because North, who missed a card while counting her high card points, opened 1; South bid 1; North bid 2 (no idea why). South bid 2 (fourth suit forcing to game). North jumped to 3NT (discovering an extra honor and trying to catch up) and South raised to 6NT. A more normal auction would be 1NT opening; 5NT raise—“partner bid 6 or bid 7”—and North has to decide with 16 and a good 5-card suit whether 7NT is reasonable.

The 10 was the lead with North playing the hand. Declarer took the K on Dummy as West played the Q (promising the J). Declarer took five rounds of diamonds. West followed to three diamond tricks, and then discarded the J and the 8 (wanting to keep four clubs thanks to North's club bid). East followed to two diamonds and discarded two low hearts and a low club. Neither party was getting rid of any spades. Declarer then played a club to the Queen as both defenders followed. She then elected to run the J from Dummy. West followed low smoothly, but Declarer let it ride. I don't think either of us gave anything away with our discards. (Without the club bid, I would discard a low club instead of my last heart.) By delaying, Declarer gave herself the best chance to figure out who might have the Q. The person with Qxx does not dare let go of one spade to try to “talk” Declarer out of the finesse because Declarer might just bang down the Ace and King. In this case, Declarer knows that West started with three hearts and three diamonds, while East started with five hearts and two diamonds. So, the theory of vacant spaces [Ask for handout if you want it.] says that West is slightly more likely than East to hold any particular black card. Any edge is worthwhile when deciding a two-way finesse.

Hand #9

Dummy (East) K65 A942 KJ109 92

North (on lead): 103 QJ73 A6 Q10763

This hand was interesting because it is a discarding problem for North. The auction went 1 by West in fourth seat, pass, 1 by East, pass, 2NT by West, 3NT by East. North elected to lead the 10. Declarer took the A and put the Q on the table. North took the A, and continued with spades as Declarer took the K on Dummy. Declarer then reeled off three more diamond tricks, discarding a club from her hand.

North was worried about keeping parity with hearts on Dummy and clubs (which Declarer has bid). North discarded one heart and one club on the diamonds. Next Declarer finessed 9 because the North denied the J on her lead. (Note: even if North had not led the 10, when second high spade is played, 10 will fall and theory of restricted choice says it is roughly 2:1 odds to finesse South for the J.) Now, Declarer cashed the Q. North had to find two discards. She had to decide whether I (Declarer) had started with four clubs and two hearts, or three clubs and three hearts.) She elected to abandon hearts and keep clubs and the pseudo-squeeze brought home an overtrick.

Is there any way for South to help her partner out? I mentioned in a previous post that when a suit is solid (or missing only one honor like the diamonds here), with entries not an issue, defenders do NOT need to give each other count. So, they can give suit preference right away in that suit. If South plays her diamonds from the bottom up, she should imply something (could be very little!) in clubs and North can abandon clubs and keep the hearts. There is no legitimate squeeze, just a pseudo squeeze. (Of course, it feels very real to poor North.)