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.