Finessing for Fun and Profit
by Harold Feldheim
Originally printed in the U126 Kibitzer
South America has had many excellent players but none more effective than the partnership of Gabriel Chagas and Marcelo Branco. Both very short in stature, one of their opponents opined that if they couldn’t play bridge, they could hire out as bookends. Having a really good sense of humor, Chagas replied that although they might be of under average height, when seated at the table, they were giants. The following hand, declared by Chagas, fully illustrates his ability.
Neither side vulnerable
The Bidding: This is a very nasty hand. After West’s preempt, the auction is almost predictable. It’s clear for South to double since 18 HCP is too much to go quietly. North thought long and hard about converting partner’s double to penalties by passing. As it turned out, this would have been the winning action,scoring +500 with little difficulty,but this seemed too dangerous. Finally, with eleven HCPs and 3-3 in the majors, he chose a cuebid of 4♣, perhaps hoping for partner to hold a five-card major. In any event, 4♥ became the final contract.
The Play:Owning only a total of seven trumps was a disagreeable surprise, especially since the auction augured bad suit splits. Still, with 29 HCP between the two hands, there should be good chances. Here, he exercised some remarkable technique, beginning with an intrafinesse and culminating with an endplay. He ducked the first club, winning the second club with the ace. Banking on the trumps not breaking 3-3 but hoping for 4-2, he led a heart from hand, inserting the 9-spot, losing to East’s 10. When a spade was returned, this confirmed the 6-2 club split. Continuing his plan, Chagas won the spade in hand and led a heart to dummy’s ace, noting the jack falling on his right. Staying with his analysis, he returned a heart from dummy, inserting the 8-spot when East played low. This was all very good but he wasn’t home yet. He could claim three spades, three hearts, two diamonds and one club for a total of nine tricks. For his 10th trick, he needed to create a 3rd diamond trick, but West held the protected queen. Having worked all this out, he drew the last trump carefully pitching a diamond rather than a club from dummy and cashed one spade, arriving at the following position:
♦ K 9 6
♦ Q 10 2
♣ K Q
♠ 10 9 8
♦ 8 4
♦ A J 7 5
Declarer led a diamond towards the dummy, fully prepared to duck if West played low. But awake to the situation, West inserted the ten forcing the king from dummy. Now declarer cashed his last spade, West had to let go a club to keep his diamond queen protected. But fully master of the situation, Chagas led the carefully preserved club from the dummy, endplaying a hapless West.