Take All Your Chances


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

You open 2♣ and rebid 2NT showing 22+to 24 HCP after partner’s 2 ‘waiting’ response. With a perfectly balanced hand, partner disdains Stayman and boosts you to 6NT knowing of at least 33 HCP between the two hands.

The opening lead is the ♠10. Plan the play.

You have 11 top tricks with two chances for a 12th: hearts 3-3 (36%) or the club queen with East (50%). Once again trying to set up an extra trick in the longer suit (hearts) is best because if the suit does not break 3-3, you are still alive and can take the club finesse. The plan, therefore, is to duck a heart and then test hearts. If hearts are 3-3, you won’t need the club finesse. Your chance for success is 68%.

The technique of ducking a heart and then playing the A-K is far superior to playing the A-K and a heart to see if they divide 3-3 for two reasons:

  1. You retain control of the suit if they break 4-2 so you can still take the club finesse.
  2. If hearts are 4-2, the opponents can take two heart tricks in which case you never do get a chance to take a club finesse (after cashing the ace).

Here it is vital to duck a trick. On this hand your club position is safe from an immediate attack so you have time to test the hearts while keeping control of the suit. Also it is risky to play A-K and a heart for fear of losing two quick tricks if the suit divides 4-2.

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

I have used this hand in my classes for years. One lady who came to all of my classes wound up playing this hand 7 or 8 times and went down each time taking the club finesse before testing the hearts no matter how much pleading and explaining I did.

The following year I couldn’t stand it any longer and put the club queen with East and made hearts 4-2 so she would finally make the hand. This time she won the opening lead and played the A-K and a heart allowing them to take two heart tricks. I gave up.