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July 22, 2001
The Scorecard is the publication for ACBL District 16. I was asked and consented to write a regular column aimed at the 0-299 masterpoint player. I will post my columns here as they may be of benefit to the same readers that benefit from my newsletter.
Scorecard, Volume 33, No 4 - July/August 2001
Experience at play of the hand tends to be a matter of depth perception. How perceptive are you? Look at each of the following slam hands and develop a line of play. Pick what you think is the best line of play to make twelve tricks. You can assume that you are playing IMPs. Trust me, these are not hands where overtricks will be of any importance anyway. After each look at the answers and you will see what I mean when I say depth perception.
Opening lead is the K. Hearts are 1-2. Plan the play.
Opening lead is the Q. Spades are 1-3. Plan the play.
Opening lead is the Q. Diamonds are 1-1. Plan the play.
You have eleven top tricks with an opportunity to develop an additional diamond trick. Whether you are successful or not depends upon your perception. The lowest perception (I will call it Level 1) simply wins the opening lead and takes diamond finesse. You have approximately a 50% chance of success. Level 2 perception realizes the power of getting the opponents to help whenever possible. Level 2 players win the opening lead, trump the 10, pull trump, and then cash all three clubs ending in the dummy. This effectively eliminates all the suits except diamonds and hearts from the two hands. Now a small diamond is played from dummy. If East is unable or unwilling to play a diamond higher than the 8 then West is allowed to win this trick and finds herself in the unfortunate position of being forced to choose between leading a diamond into the AQ or giving you a ruff-sluff. Either way, twelve tricks are yours. This line is lightly better than 50%. The true visionaries (Level 3) give themselves TWO chances to pull off this position. Level 3 players win the opening lead, pull trump, and then cash three rounds of clubs ending in the dummy. Now they lead the 10. If East is unable or unwilling to cover it with a higher spade, then the 8 is discarded and West is allowed to win and present you with the contract with her return. If East covers the 10, then it is trumped and dummy is entered with a trump and diamond is played to see if East can find a diamond higher than the 8. This gives the Level 3 players TWO chances to endplay West.
Once again you find yourself in slam with eleven top tricks and chances for a twelfth. The Level 1 players simply win the opening lead, pull trump and take the heart finesse by playing low to the Q. This equates to about a 50% chance. I guess you figured out by now that you can do better. Having learned from Hand 1, the Level 2 players win the opening lead, pull trump, cash the remaining diamond and club winners before taking the heart finesse. This is ever so slightly better, but they too miss the point. They make the hand if West holds the K or if East has the K singleton. The Level 3 player remembers the definition of a finesse, and realizes that even if the heart finesse is successful that a heart loser still exists. Level 3 players give themselves ever opportunity. Win the opening lead, pull trump, cash the A, cash the diamond and club winners, and then lead a heart towards the Q. Level 3 players win if the Q is in the West hand (the finesse works) OR if the K is in the East hand singleton (it falls under the A) OR if the K is in the East hand doubleton (when East captures the Q she must give you a ruff-sluff on the return).
Surprise, another hand with eleven top tricks. This time several choices are available for the desperately needed extra trick. The Level 1 players can see far enough to combine chances. Level 1 players win the opening lead, pull trump, and take both the spade finesse (small to the Q) AND the heart finesse (cash the K, then small to the J). Good chance coming out slightly better than 75% needing only one of two finesses plus a small boost from the possibility that the Q is singleton. Can you do better? Without question you can. The Level 2 players by now realize that soliciting the opponents help with finesses is good work if you can get it. Level 2 players win the opening lead, pull trump, cash the A, trump the last club, cash the A and K, and then play the J. Level 2 players will come home with twelve tricks whenever the Q is doubleton or singleton OR whenever West holds the Q (when West wins the Q she must either return a spade into the AQ or give you a ruff-sluff) OR whenever East holds the Q and K (when East wins the Q she will lead a spade and force the spade finesse). This better than then the Level 1 approach by taking the additional advantage of a doubleton Q, but still not the best. Neither the Level 1 or Level 2 players used the power of the 9! Level 3 players win the opening lead, pull trump, cash the A, trump the third club, and then play the A and the Q. Level 3 players will come to twelve tricks whenever East holds the K (upon winning the K East must lead into the heart AJ or give you a ruff-sluff) OR when West holds the K and the Q OR when West holds the K and the 10. This combination should be familiar to you. If West returns a low heart you play low from dummy. If East holds the Q without the 10 then you will take three heart tricks. If East plays the 10, then you win the K and try a heart to the J. The only arrangement that does not allow you to take three heart tricks is the Q and 10 both with East. The total for Level 3 players is close to 88%, considerably better than the Level 1 chance of 75%.
How did you do? Are you a Level 1, 2 or 3? The next time you start to complain about your bad luck, take another look at the hand. Did you miss something? Let me hear from you.