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Bridge 12/27

Finesse win, win; finesse lose, win

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Posted: December 22, 2007 1:03 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    Tennis superstar Martina Navratilova claimed: "Whoever said, 'It's not whether you win or lose that counts,' probably lost."
    That is no doubt true — but at the bridge table, sometimes you can win whether you win or lose. That sounds paradoxical, but look at this deal. You are South, in four spades. West leads the heart queen to your ace. How would you plan the play? Would you do something different if you were in three no-trump?
    Although your hand contains only 20 high-card points, it is worth nearer 22. You should count an extra point for the good five-card suit and another for all those aces and kings. Then, North used Stayman in a successful attempt to find an eight-card spade fit. Your fifth spade was a bonus.
    You should see four possible losers: one spade and three diamonds. But you also have 10 sure tricks: four spades, two hearts and four clubs. So you are safe as long as the opponents don't get four tricks first.
    How might you lose three diamond tricks?
    Only if East gains the lead and shifts to the suit, and West has the ace over your king. You must play the trumps to make sure that East cannot win a trick if he has queen-third. Ignoring "nine nearly never," lead a spade to dummy's ace, then finesse in spades through East. Here, the finesse wins and you come home with an overtrick. Even if the finesse lost, though, your contract would be safe. You win whether the finesse wins or loses.
    In three no-trump, the play should follow the same route.
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