Mike’s Advice


michaelslawrence.com

This article starts a small series of hands that cover issues of the trump suit. There are lots of guidelines about play in general but not all hands fall into them. Some hands require thoughtful attention.

North
♠ 7 5 4 3 2
2
A Q 4
♣ K 5 4 2
South
♠ 9
A K Q
K J 10 9 3
♣ A J 8 6

You open 1 and West bids 1♠. Eventually you bid to 5♣. West leads ace and ♠K. You ruff. This seems easy enough. If you can negotiate the trump suit, you will make five clubs. You might make an overtrick. You lead to dummy’s ♣K, both opponents playing low, and return a club toward your hand. East follows with the nine. Should you finesse, and if not, what should you do and why?

Let’s say you finesse.

If it loses to the queen West will lead another spade, making you ruff with your last club, the ace. You will lose a trick to someone’s ♣10 and will be down.

Here is a possible layout.

♠ 7 5 4 3 2
2
A Q 4
♣ K 5 4 2
♠ A K J 8 6 ♠ Q 10
J 8 6 4 10 9 7 5 3
2 8 7 6 5
♣ Q 10 3 ♣ 9 7
♠ 9
A K Q
K J 10 9 3
♣ A J 8 6

If you play the ♣A you will make five clubs as long as West follows suit. If he has the doubleton queen, so much the better. You get an overtrick.

If you play the ♣A and West shows out, you go down, losing two club tricks to East.

On this layout, the best chance to make your contract is to play the king and ace of clubs, which succeeds whenever the clubs divide 3-2. This is around 65%. Taking the club finesse gives you about a 51% chance.

Cater your play to match your needs.

The next example is similar. This time you are in six clubs with no opponents’ bidding.
West leads the ♠K.

North
♠ A 5 4 3 2
2
A Q 4
♣ K 5 4 2
 South
♠ 9
A K Q
K J 10 9 3
♣ A J 8 6

In this layout you must cater to a different danger.

You win the ♠A and play the ♣K, both opponents following. When you lead toward your hand East follows low and you have a problem somewhat like in the previous hand. Should you finesse the jack or should you play for the drop?

If you play the ace and West follows, you will make your slam. You will make an overtrick if the queen drops. The danger is that if you play the ace and West shows out, East will have started with the Q10xx of clubs. You can go to dummy to lead toward your jack but East will win and lead a spade, making you ruff with your jack. East will get a club trick and you will be down one.

Playing the king and ace of clubs is dangerous.

Now consider what happens if you finesse and West wins his queen. Whatever he leads, you will win and draw trump and claim.

If you finesse and West shows out, you just draw one more round of clubs and run your red suit winners. East can have his trick at any time and that will be that.

Different dangers require different considerations.