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The deal below came up in the play-off between two very strong teams. While one stopped at 4S, the other bid the slam easily. The play is interesting as it offers different possible lines. Finally, it is about percentages. See if you can find the correct play.
Contract: 6S by south. West leads the CQ. Plan the play.
Bidding comment: North made the practical bid when he raised his partner’s pre-empt all the way to six. Absolutely brilliant! This is the sort of bid that wins matches, for it puts west on a complete guess about the opening lead. If south has a 7-2-2-2 distribution, a club lead will be required to defeat the slam, for declarer can double-finesse the hearts to pitch his club loser.
Analysis: There are eleven tricks on top with excellent chances for the twelfth. You can take a double finesse in hearts, i.e. play for the heart honours to be split in the EW hands. This, as we all know, offers about 76 per cent chance.
Another idea that comes to the mind is to see if the DQ comes down in two rounds. If not, take the second finesse in hearts. There is, however, a hitch in this. Let us say that you unblock the SA, ruff a club, draw trumps, and run the HT. East may win and play a third club. Now, it is not possible to test the diamonds as you have no entry to back your hand to take the heart finesse.
Is there anything better than the 76 per cent chance of a double finesse? What then is correct play?
Solution: Yes, there is. And it is absurdly simple. Declarer simply cashes the HA and gives up a heart. If hearts are 4-2, the suit can be established as there are sufficient entries to dummy to ruff out the hearts. A 4-2 or 3-3 break put together offers about 84 per cent chance of success. So, this about 8 per cent more than the double-finesse, and you will agree that it is definitely superior.
Discussion: What if the hearts are 5-1 or 6-1?, with west having K-Q-x-x-x-(x). Put yourself in his shoes. You would have selected the HK as the opening lead in preference to the CQ, wouldn’t you?
If east has H K-Q-x-x-x, (not at all likely for west would have led his singleton), the suggested play works for declarer can take a ruffing finesse against east. The suggested play loses only if west is void in hearts with east having H K-Q-x-x-x-x. It is important to note here that playing for the double finesse in hearts will lose if east has K-Q / K-Q-x / K-Q-x-x. The mere existence of a double-finesse position should not just be the consideration for you to play for it. Admittedly it offers an excellent chance... but you should examine if there is anything better elsewhere, as in this case; or maybe you can combine chances in two suits or play for a squeeze and so on.
You may ask, “Isn’t it better to duck a heart at trick two?” It may be the correct play if dummy does not have enough entries.... but not here. Suppose west has K-x-x-x-x in hearts, he would overtake his partner’s queen and give him a ruff to defeat the contract. Even if he does not give a ruff or if east has the stiff king, you will go down as east will ruff the ace when you play the second heart.
There are ample entries and it is important to make as safe a play as possible and provide for a 5-1 division. Play out the deal using a deck of cards. You will understand the play better.