Bridge column, February 7: If they defend well, you must guess well
When you are the declarer, sometimes your opponents will defend well and make your life somewhere between difficult and impossible. More often, though, they will not find the best plays, making your task much easier.
Take today's deal as an example. South is in four hearts. After West leads the spade king, what is the best defense? If East and West find that sequence of plays, what is declarer's correct line mathematically?
Three no-trump is easy here, but if South had rebid that, North, with four trumps and a low doubleton, would have corrected to four hearts.
Under West's spade king, East encourages with his nine. Now West should cash his spade queen, then lead a third spade (preferably the 10 as a suit-preference signal for diamonds, the higher-ranking of the other two side suits) to East's ace. Then East should shift to the diamond four.
South has two lines of play. He can take the diamond finesse -- a straight 50-50 shot. Or he can win with his diamond ace and run all of his trumps, discarding a diamond from the dummy. He gets home if clubs are 3-3 -- a 35.53 percent chance -- or if a defender has four-plus clubs and the diamond king. (He will be squeezed by the last heart.) Even allowing for the squeeze chance, mathematically the diamond finesse is the better line -- and fails here.
However, if West wins the third spade trick and exits with a trump, declarer can cash his trumps, pitching a diamond from the dummy, then check to see if clubs are 3-3. If they are not, South has the diamond finesse as a last resort.
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