Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - by Phillip Alder

In “Think­ing About Qual­ity,” Clare Craw­ford-Ma­son and Lloyd Dobyns wrote, “Noth­ing in life is static; it ei­ther gets bet­ter, or it gets worse.”

At the bridge ta­ble, a pri­ori odds are static, but the ac­tual odds change -- get more or less likely -- based on both the bid­ding and the cards that have been played.

Take to­day’s North-South di­a­mond suit. Need­ing to avoid a loser in it, is it bet­ter to cash the ace and king or to finesse through, say, West on the sec­ond round? Does the bet­ter play change when the auc­tion tells de­clarer that East started with six hearts and West with three?

North had a nasty de­ci­sion after East opened with a weak two-bid, and West gave a pre-emp­tive raise. To dou­ble with only two spades was un­ap­peal­ing, and bid­ding three no-trump with a dou­ble­ton heart was dan­ger­ous. North’s jump to four no-trump showed a mi­nor two-suiter. (Yes, he ought to have been at least 5-5, but he de­cided this was the worst of the evils. Not that it proves much, but note that three notrump can­not make.)

When need­ing these num­bers, I go to Richard Pavlicek’s ex­cel­lent web­site, rp­ As­sum­ing I did it cor­rectly, if you know noth­ing about the deal, play­ing out the king and ace is bet­ter than fi­ness­ing on round two by just 1.69 per­cent. How­ever, given the stated heart break, the fi­ness­ing odds are 6.62 per­cent higher than cash­ing the ace and king.

When you know one de­fender has far fewer cards in one suit, play him for a key card in an­other suit -- un­less the bid­ding tells you that he can­not have it!

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