Knowing how to ask yourselves the right questions and then answer them is the key to improve your chances on any bridge hand, be it as declarer or as defender.
I’ll give you a hand below, and a series of questions – like a riddle! Try to answer these questions by yourself. Then look at the answers, which will be presented together with the full deal.
At the end we’ll summarize a few important “Things to remember” for each problem. Enjoy!
Dealer West, All Vulnerable
Against 5♦ West led the ♠AK.
- How are the points divided between opponents?
- How many losers can you count?
- What is your plan to play this contract?
- How many entries to your hand do you need to time your play properly?
- How will you continue?
1. How are the points divided between opponents?
About 12-14 in West and 8-10 in East, based on the bidding.
2. How many losers can you count?
Three or four: 2 Clubs, 1 Spade and maybe 1 Diamond, if Diamonds split 3-0.
3. What is your plan to play this contract?
You need to hope Diamonds split 2-1 and then avoid 1 Club loser by trying a double finesse on West.
4. How many entries to your hand do you need to time your play properly?
To take a double finesse, you might need to play Club twice from hand (unless West holds both top Club honors), and for that you need at least 2 entries (2 if Clubs split 3-2, and one more if West has 4 Clubs and East has a stiff honor).
5. How will you continue?
Ruff the 2nd Spade with the 8♦ and keep your ♦6 as a future entry to hand.
Cash ♦AK and when you see the ♦Q drops, continue with the ♦6 to your ♦7 in hand.
NOTE! Even though you only have 2 entries to hand, you can save an entry and overcome a 4-1 split: Continue with a LOW Club now to dummy’s ♣10.
East wins with the ♣Q and plays back a Heart. Win the ♥A in dummy and continue with a Diamond to your ♦J.
Now play the ♣9 and run it when West plays low. The ♣9 keeps you in hand (saves you an entry) and you can finesse another Club to the ♣J. Then play the ♣A to drop West’s ♣K and claim 11 tricks.
Things to remember
1) A normal double finesse has a 75% chance to succeed. It fails only if the same opponent holds both top honors over your top card and succeeds if honors are divided or if both honors are before your top card. You need your top card to ambush 1 of the missing honors.
2) When you take a double finesse and don’t have easy entries to the hand where you need to play from, consider NOT starting with the top card from this hand, but leave it for the second time you play the finesse, as the first round is bound to lose a trick anyway…
So the 2nd time might hold the trick to allow you to take another finesse (as you did here with the ♣9)
3) Defense against 2 suiter bids: Let’s say your opponents play Michaels cue bid and they make a bid with 2 known suits, like the 2NT bid here which showed both minors. It’s good to agree with your partner that:
a. Double: You have defense and want to punish at least 1 of their suits.
b. Cue bid the lower of opponents’ suits (3♣ here): Forcing, shows the lower available suit (which is not one of the suits shown by your opponent). So here, if East bids 3♣ it would mean 5+ cards in Heart, forcing.
c. Cue bid the higher of opponents’ suits (3♦ here): Forcing, shows the higher available suit. So here, if East bids 3♦ it would mean support in Spade, forcing.
d. Bid a new suit: Natural, non forcing. So here, if East bids 3♥, it will show Hearts, not forcing.
e. Support partner: Natural, non forcing (like the bidding in our example hand).
4) Note that if North had 6 Clubs and 5 Diamonds – he could have bid 5♣ on his second bid, showing a 6-5 distribution (with 6 Clubs). But with 5-5 or longer Diamonds he needs to rebid 4NT to force partner to bid either 5♣ or ♦.