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Bridge 12/22

First finesse, then safety-play

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Posted: December 21, 2006 3:21 p.m.
Updated: January 5, 2007 5:00 a.m.
Jean Nidetch, who started what is now known as Weight Watchers International, said, “It’s choice — not chance — that determines your destiny.”
    That is sometimes true at the bridge table, although not often. In this deal, success depends more on skill than chance. You reach six spades. West leads the heart king. There are potential problems in each black suit. If the club finesse is working, you can afford one spade loser. How would you play the spades in that situation? If the club finesse is failing, you will have to play spades without loss. What would you do then?
    Over North’s game-invitational limit raise of three spades, South dabbled his toe in the slam water by control-bidding (cue-bidding) four clubs to show that ace. When North announced slam interest and the diamond ace, South took a stab at six.
    Since you do not know how to attack spades, you should take the club finesse at trick two — determine your destiny there.
    If the finesse loses, you will ruff West’s heart-queen continuation and cash the spade ace, hoping to find a singleton king somewhere. (That is twice as good as crossing to dummy with a diamond and leading the spade queen, trying to pin a singleton jack in the West hand.)
    But when the club finesse wins, you can take a safety-play in spades: Either lead low toward dummy’s queen, or (better, because you might collect an overtrick) play a diamond to dummy’s ace and call for a low spade, covering East’s card as cheaply as possible (or going up with the ace if East discards).
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