Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - PUZZLES - with DOU­GLAS NEW­LANDS

This hand is from the 2016 Au­tumn Na­tion­als Spring Pairs in Ade­laide. The auc­tion was straight­for­ward but the play is quite dif­fi­cult af­ter the lead of the six of hearts to the nine and jack. You may like to stop here and de­cide how you would play it.

There are two ob­vi­ous lines af­ter win­ning the jack of hearts. Most de­clar­ers want to pro­tect the king of hearts and see the re­verse fi­nesse in di­a­monds as their sal­va­tion. At trick two, they lead a di­a­mond to the king and then re­turn the jack. If East does not cover, the jack wins and if East does cover, the 10D is smoth­ered at the same time. All these de­clar­ers were suc­cess­ful.

How­ever, some de­clar­ers de­cided that the best chance of mak­ing the five di­a­mond tricks re­quired for the con­tract was to take a first round fi­nesse of the jack of di­a­monds and these de­clar­ers all went down. The re­sult on any one hand doesn’t ac­tu­ally tell you what the cor­rect line is. So now you might con­sider whether the fi­nesse or the smother is the cor­rect line.

The way to make an an­a­lyt­i­cal de­ci­sion is to re­alise the di­a­monds must be 3-2 for both lines and to count how many cases are favourable for each line. The smother line re­quires West to have 10x which is three cases (108, 107 or 103). The fi­nesse line works for Qx (same three cases) and for Qxx (six cases). Thus, the fi­nesse is nine to three bet­ter than the smother line. Of course the pre­empt lessens the chances of West hold­ing three cards but the re­quire­ment for the di­a­monds to be 3-2 off­sets this.

So the fi­nesse seems bet­ter be­cause it of­fers nine tricks where the smother play has trou­ble find­ing nine tricks if it loses. Sur­pris­ingly, there is a third in­ter­est­ing line suggested by Kit Woolsey. Win the open­ing lead with the KH and play the smother line. When it loses, if West does not have the 10H, he is likely to play East for J109(x) of hearts and will un­der­lead his heart so as to un­block the suit. It will be a nasty sur­prise when South turns up with the jack of hearts.

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