Poor Bridge of the Week
Just a Sip of Vinho Verde
By Nick Smith

Sometimes poorbridge is like a tumbler full of vodka — viewing the idiocies of your fellow man provides an instant hit of pure pleasure (and then you fall over). But there are other times when it is like a sip of chilled vinho verde — apparently innocuous but full of subtle flavours that take a little longer to appreciate...

E/W Vuln
Dealer S
HQ 7 6 2
DA Q J 4
CA 8 7 4
SK 10 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
DK 10 2
SJ 9
HJ 8 5 4
D8 7 6
CK 6 5 3
HA K 10 9 3
D9 5 3
CQ J 10 2

It's a multiple teams tournament and, at one table, West pre-empts with 3S and North/South play in a quiet 4H, making twelve tricks. At the other table, West tries 4S over 1H and this has the effect of propelling North/South into the heart slam. At first sight it requires one of two finesses — a decent shot even after the pre-empt. Can South make 6H for an 11 IMP gain?

West leads S7 and South wins perforce with the Ace. HA reveals the bad news. Declarer crosses to HQ and draws all the trumps via the obvious finesse. Next comes CQ which goes to the 9, 4 and 3. A second club finesse is won with the King while West pitches a spade.

East returns SJ, forcing declarer to use her last trump in ruffing. But now she is able to finesse DQ and return to hand with C10 to finesse DJ and claim the contract. Well played! Next board please!

But let's hold on just one cotton-pickin' minute and sift through the detritus...

East (who, like South, shall remain disappointingly anonymous) did really well to duck the first round of clubs and win the second. But he now has a clear view of the entire hand and should return another club. This limits declarer to a single entry to hand (C10) so she can only take one diamond finesse and must concede the final trick to DK. Oh dear!

Can declarer avoid this embarrassing fate after CQ holds? Yes, by finessing DQ immediately and then playing clubs from the top, creating another entry for a second diamond finesse. But that would not be so clever if the minor suit kings are the other way round. Mind you, East would again have to be sharp enough to duck DK to create the chance of a losing choice — try it and see!

For declarer, the appearance of C9 should have been the biggest pointer. Would West have played that card from CK9, K9x or K9xx? Possible, but highly unlikely. So switching to diamonds was the percentage shot, IMHO. To avoid this dilemma, declarer should actually have taken her first minor suit finesse when West showed out on HA. Say it loses — what harm can East possibly do? There will be plenty of time (and trump entries) to take further finesses and the slam will surely make as long as one minor king is right.

All in all, a blend of subtle flavours with a pleasant bouquet of mortal folly.