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Bridge: With two chances, try them both

Mark Twain said, “Necessity is the mother of taking chances.”

At the bridge table, the more chances you have to make your contract, the better.

In today’s deal, South ended in five clubs. West led the heart two. East won with the queen and, with nothing better to do, continued with the heart ace. After ruffing, what should South have done?

North suffered greatly on the second round of the auction. After opening one diamond, hearing East overcall one heart, and having partner respond two clubs, what could he do? Nothing was perfect.

Eventually, he chose three clubs as the least evil. Then South cue-bid three hearts, asking his partner to bid three no-trump with a heart stopper. When North could not, South settled into five clubs.

South started with 10 top tricks: two spades, one diamond and seven clubs. He needed either a third spade or second diamond. Declarer initially wondered if either finesse would work, but then he saw he had a better line of play.

South drew trumps, then maximized his chance for three spade tricks by playing a spade to dummy’s ace and leading a spade to his king. When the queen appeared, he was playing for an overtrick. But if East had turned up with queen-fourth of spades, South would have still had the diamond finesse on the back burner.

The bidding does affect the odds here, but that is hard to quantify. A priori, one of two finesses will work 76 percent of the time. The recommended play comes in at 88.5 percent.


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