Hand Evaluation Wins Game

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Careful card reading enabled today’s declarer to insure his three notrump contract in spite of unfavorable breaks in two suits as well as a losing finesse.

Warren Buffett (second from left) and Bill Gates (right)
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The Evening Independent – 19 Ene 1970 by Paul Boardman

Careful card reading enabled today’s declarer to insure his three notrump contract in spite of unfavorable breaks in two suits as well as a losing finesse.

THE BIDDING: South’s opening notrump was based upon standard values and North knew immediately that the combined partnership strength added up to a game contract. The question to be determined was wheter the game should be played in spades, hearts or notrump. Should South happen to have a four-card holding in either major, then the safest and best game contract would be in that suit.

North made use of an artifitial response of two clubs. (Stayman Convention) to inquire whether or not South had either four spades or four hearts. South’s answer of two diamonds indicated the lack of a four-card major so North chose three notrump as the best game contract.

THE PLAY: West opened the defensive attack by leading his spade 5, the fourth highest of his longest and strongest suit. South took time to evaluate the trick taking potential of the combined North-South hands and counted 8 tricks from top cards; three spades, three hearts, one diamond and one club. He saw that his 9th trick might develop from one of three sources; an even division of the outstanding spades, an even division of the hearts, or a successful finesse in diamonds.

He decided to test both of the major suits before falling back on the finesse as a last resort. As a precautionary step, declarer refused to win the first club trick, but took his ace on the second trick when East continued with the 10. A small spade was played to dummy’s king and a small spade back to the ace to set up a proven finesse against the jack in the event East failed to follow to the second spade lead.

A third spade to North’s queen revealed that West had started with only two spades and that the suit would not break: Three top hearts were then cashed and West’s discard of a diamond revealed, that hearts also had failed to divide evenly. The position at that point was as follows:

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Instead of relying on the diamond finesse for his 9th trick, a club was played from dummy with the knowledge that West could only win three club tricks which declarer could afford. West would then have to return a diamond to give South his 9th trick no matter who held the diamond king.

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