Bridge Puzzlement

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I don’t often have time to peruse the Bridge columns but this one by Maureen Hiron in today’s Independent caught my eye.

South ended up as declarer in 3 No Trumps, against which the standard lead by West would be the 8♥ (4th highest of longest suit). This turns out very badly for the defence, however, as it makes South’s Queen into a winner. Keeping the A♥ in place to prevent a heart attack (!), South can then easily win 12 tricks, losing only one (to the K♦).

In the game discussed in the column. West (Zia Manhood, actually) correctly surmised that South’s No Trump bid indicated that he had a defence against hearts and tried an unorthodox lead of a low club. South played the Ace from dummy to win then crossed back to his hand by playing a spade from dummy to the A♠.

So far so good, two tricks down. Seven to go…

However South now tried a diamond finesse (perhaps confused by West’s earlier bid of 2♦ which did not indicate a diamond holding but a weak hand with a long major suit, ie hearts). Anyway the finesse fails because East has the King. South then has to look on as the defence win four club tricks;.the contract fails by one.

There’s no doubt that the club lead is better than hearts here but what puzzled  me at first is why South went for the diamond finesse straight away, as it seemed very risky to me.

Looking at South’s hand and dummy only it is clear that there are 5 spade tricks to be taken unless the remainder split 5-0; South’s cross to hand at trick 2 shows this is not the case. Taking the opening trick plus five spade tricks leaves South only needing three more tricks to make the contract. There are however only two obvious winners remaining: A♦ in dummy and A♥ in hand.  South needs either the diamond finesse mentioned above or to somehow turn Q♥ into a winner. The finesse doesn’t work in that case either and West is highly unlikely to lead a heart into South’s tenace given that he didn’t lead one at the start!

It seems to me that East and West have four club tricks and one Diamond trick in the bag so South must go one off after that lead, unless of course East had been foolish enough to discard a club on one or more of South’s spade winners….

..  and only an idiot like me would do that!

PS. Standard advice would be for South to duck the first club trick, but it doesn’t help in this case.

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