Test Your Play

1. IMPs

♠ A Q J 9 8
9 7
9 7 2
♣ A 9 8
♠ 6 5
Q J 10 8 6 5 4
A K 10 3
♣ —
WEst North East South
All Pass

West leads the ♠7. You elect to win the ♠A, discard a spade on the ♣A and lead the 9. Lo and behold, the ♥9 wins, both opponents following low. Now what?


It is pretty clear that East, with likely spade length, has ducked with A K x. With a singleton diamond, East would likely have taken the trick and shifted to a diamond, so that worry should be scratched.

The best way to avoid two diamond losers is to start with the A K. If an honor falls, the most you can lose is two hearts and a diamond. If nothing exciting happens in diamonds, play a third diamond. If the suit breaks 3–3, no problem: You lose two hearts and a diamond. If East has Q J x x, down you go, losing two hearts and two diamonds. But if the more likely suspect, West, has Q J x x, you have the wherewithal to ruff a diamond in dummy, once again losing two hearts and a diamond.

The trap for you to avoid is leading a diamond to the 10 after the 9 holds. If the suit is 4–2, West will win with an honor and get out with a club. You ruff, but when you play the A K, East ruffs the third round of the suit, cashes a trump, and West takes the setting trick in diamonds.


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

West leads the K. Plan the play at IMPs and at matchpoints.


IMP scoring: Win the A, draw trumps, cash the A K and exit a heart. Assuming West has the Q, the only way you can go down is if East has Q x x and West the ♣A, in which case no line works. If East has any other diamond holding, and West the Q, you cannot go down.

Matchpoint scoring: Are you willing to risk your contract for an overtrick or two? The risk involves winning the A, drawing trumps, and leading a diamond to the king and a diamond to the jack, assuming West follows. If West has the Q x x, you will make at least one overtrick, possibly two if East has the ♣A.

In addition, if West has Q x x x (x), you win the third diamond with dummy’s ace, ruff a diamond and exit a heart, endplaying West to make an overtrick.

The finesse line loses when East has Q x x x and West the ♣A. Now you go down on an ice-cold hand. Welcome to the world of duplicate bridge.

The bottom line: At matchpoints, the chances of an overtrick or two are promising enough to risk your contract by taking the diamond finesse. You don’t win or place in matchpoint tournaments by playing safe on hands like this.

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