The West Australian - - GAMES - Nigel Dut­ton

Do you re­mem­ber when you first started play­ing bridge and you learnt how to fi­nesse — oh what a rev­e­la­tion and dis­cov­ery this turned out to be. You loved it and since you had now achieved the rank of mas­ter card player, you fi­nessed at ev­ery pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity. And do you know what? You still do, even when you don’t need to. I call these Prac­tice Fi­nesses. You take them be­cause you can and just to let part­ner and the op­po­nents know you haven’t lost the touch. To­day’s hand is from a re­cent congress teams and fea­tures the Prac­tice Fi­nesse but first, a point about teams’ events. With all forms of pairs, whether they are Match­point or IMP scored, your re­sult de­pends, to a cer­tain ex­tent, on what every­body else in the field does. With a teams’ event your re­sult de­pends en­tirely on how your team per­forms on each board ver­sus the other team; your score is com­pletely un­re­lated to any other team. It is well recog­nised that teams’ event is by far the best form of bridge com­pe­ti­tion as the el­e­ment of luck is re­duced to al­most nil.

In the lat­est ABF news­let­ter, John New­man, one of Aus­tralia’s top young play­ers, com­mented at the re­cent Gold Coast Congress: “I was tempted to skip the Match­point Pairs events to hang out in the rain­for­est and only play IMPs events, but Matty B asked me to play the Bobby Rich­man Pairs, and he has stolen so many tricks from me over the years that I found my­self say­ing ‘yes’ im­me­di­ately.” He went on to say: “Match­points baf­fles me. Whereas IMPs strat­egy is de­li­ciously sim­ple (bid games, make con­tracts, de­feat con­tracts), match­point strat­egy seems to be the per­pet­ual anal­y­sis of gam­bles. I’m of­ten not sure what to do, but I know that it mat­ters.” As an aside, John and Matty won the event — well done.

So to to­day’s hand where the Prac­tice Fi­nesse was not only un­nec­es­sary but also turned out to be a dis­as­ter. As I have men­tioned be­fore, the most im­por­tant thing at IMP scor­ing is to make your con­tract. Over­tricks are not im­por­tant. At both ta­bles 3NT was de­clared by south. At one ta­ble a small spade was led that clearly pleased de­clarer who, with lit­tle thought, ran this to the ten, quickly played a spade to the ace and took the prac­tice heart fi­nesse and seemed pleased when it worked. West, of course, was in no great hurry to take the king and sim­ply played low. De­clarer now played a small heart to the ace and when the king didn’t fall be­gan to ap­pre­ci­ate the dilemma she had cre­ated for her­self. In­ci­den­tally, west’s play, while im­pres­sive, was un­nec­es­sary as tak­ing the king and ex­it­ing a di­a­mond achieves the same re­sult of lock­ing dum­mies hearts away for the re­main­der of the week.

I in­ten­tion­ally made the point that de­clarer played with lit­tle thought — the most com­mon of er­rors. She was also so keen to get to dummy to take the heart fi­nesse that she ne­glected the most ba­sic re­quire­ment of de­clarer play: count your tricks BE­FORE play­ing to trick one. Why did she take the heart fi­nesse? Sim­ply be­cause it was there and she could, which plenty of play­ers, even some of the most ex­pe­ri­enced, would do. So when dummy ar­rives, count your tricks. On a spade lead you have four spade tricks along with the ace of clubs and the ace of di­a­monds, so 6 tricks. Ergo you only need three heart tricks so why take the fi­nesse? Win the spade ten and play ace and an­other heart and you will be writ­ing 630 on your score­sheet rather than -100. 13 IMP out. Oops.

At the other ta­ble the auc­tion in­di­cated a di­a­mond lead, which en­cour­aged west to lead the jack of di­a­monds, a thought­ful and po­ten­tially killer lead. Now with only one re­main­ing en­try in dummy the prac­tice fi­nesse was a real dan­ger. Ace and an­other heart and, as luck would have it, the king was with west so the di­a­mond queen re­mained safe and pro­tected.

The Ken­de­nup Congress was won by John El­liott and Claire James, both from the Den­mark Bridge Club. Sec­ond were Ken Else and Kay Thomp­son with Ali­son Gun­ton and Vivi­enne Davis third — all from Al­bany.

Congratulations to BAWA di­rec­tor Neville Walker, who has re­cently qual­i­fied as a Level 3 na­tional di­rec­tor.

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