Tino’s Bridge Corner #2

Tino Mori, Columnist

Hello! Welcome back to this little corner of Bridge-related malarkey! If you read last week’s column and have returned for more, then you’ve got some serious gumption! Let’s get started with some bridge lingo, eh?

The Post-Mortem:
There are two parts to any hand of bridge: the bidding and the play. But there’s also a classic cliché which insists there’s a third part to a hand of bridge: the Post-Mortem.
The Post-Mortem is the discussion with one’s partner about the last hand, which most likely did not go particularly well. Both players will try to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing, blaming luck, gimmicky opponents, and their partner for their misfortune. I’m not saying all bridge players are defensive and a bit immature – no wait, actually I am; we’re often an argumentative bunch.
The Post-Mortem does have actual value though, because everyone makes mistakes. The Post-Mortem lets you learn from them. A bridge column, in some ways, is just a Post-Mortem for a hand you didn’t play. Most bridge puzzles in this column have origins in hands I messed up in the past. Good players don’t only look at what they could have done better, they look at what the opponents could have done better, and how one would respond to that.
Of course, you don’t have to be a bridge player to benefit from humility and self-reflection. Taking the opportunity to evaluate your small failures is part of this agonizing transition from frolicking childhood into stern adulthood. Make mistakes, look at them in your Post-Mortem, then make them again, down the road. Eventually you’ll stop making those errors and find new mistakes to make. In bridge, just as in life, you can never escape being a dummy from time to time.

For Neophytes:

You’re sitting South and the bidding goes as follows:

North East South West
1D Pass 1S Pass
3S Pass 4S Pass
Pass Pass

You are declarer, North is dummy.

S – A Q J 2
H – K Q
D – Q J 3 2
C – K 9 4
Lead D – 9

S – 10 8 7 3
H – J 5 3
D – A K
C – A J 3 2

West leads the 9 of Diamonds, and you win it in your hand. How do you best draw trump?A robust strategy for most declarers is to play the trump suit until you and the dummy are the only ones with wild cards remaining ¬ also known as drawing trump. However, the point of this example is to discuss an essential tactic known as the finesse. When you are missing an honor (also known as a face card), and you have the honor above it and below it, you probably have the conditions of a finesse.
Let’s zoom in:

S – A Q J 2
S – ? S – ?
S – 10 8 7 3

You don’t know which opponent holds the king, but it might threaten your contract. If you play the ace of spades straight away, you’re almost certainly going to lose a trick to the king. A finesse gives you a chance to eliminate that threat.
Here’s how it goes: South leads the 3 of Spades, and West plays low. Declarer plays the Queen (or Jack) from dummy. That is a finesse. Simple, no?
The finesse always hopes that the threat card sits in the second hand – in this case, with West. A finesse traps this player. If West has the king and plays it on South’s three of Spades, North will play the ace and subsequently win the Q, J and ten. If West has the King but doesn’t play it, North’s queen will win, and East can’t touch it. If the Declarer regains the lead in South, they can take the finesse over and over again, until the king falls to the ace.
The finesse is devious, but only 50 percent of the time. If East has the king, then your finesse will fail. It’s far from foolproof, but it’s often better than playing the ace right off the bat. A finesse offers a chance to scoop an extra trick.
Answer to the original problem: play low to the queen OR play the ten and let it ride. Take the risk and cross your fingers.

Bonus: Did you spot the second finesse in the hand?

C – K 9 4
C – ? C – ?
C – A J 3 2

That’s right! In clubs! In this case you’re missing the Queen and you don’t have the two sandwiching honors in the same hand as last time. However, you can take the finesse by playing the four to the Jack. If East has the queen, you’ve earned yourself an extra club trick. Well done, you!
Once you notice them, finesses will be everywhere. Keep an eye out and score those extra tricks!

For Intermediates:
This first hand was posted last week – here is my solution to it – hopefully it is halfway enlightening!


You’re sitting East. The bidding has gone:

North East South West
Pass 1NT Pass
2C Pass 2S Pass
5C Pass 6C Pass
Pass Pass

You’re holding:
S – 8 7 6 5 4
H – J 10 3 2
D – A J
C – 8 5

What do you lead to stop the contract?

It’s almost as stressful to defend against a slam hand as it is to play it. Even a small mistake by the defense can seriously hurt your score. So: How are you going to grab those two tricks needed?
Since your partner hasn’t said anything, you need to go with an old fashioned process of elimination to dismiss suits that you shouldn’t lead.

Diamonds: Tempting as it is to grab that quick trick with your diamond ace, you should almost never lead away from an ace, unless you have the king. It often gives your opponents a trick they don’t necessarily deserve.
Clubs: A trump lead is overall neutral – it probably won’t cost you a trick, since your opponents will draw trump soon anyway ¬ but it probably won’t gain you anything.
Spades: This lead isn’t terrible, but it’s also not great. You know South has at least four, so North and your partner have either three or four between them. It’s unlikely that the spades split such that North has all and your partner has none, without North mentioning them. Chances are you’ll make a void for North. But if your partner is short or has the ace, or is in a position to finesse, it’s not a terrible lead. It just isn’t the right one.
Hearts: The correct answer is a heart. Neither opponent mentioned the suit, so chances are neither is particularly long in it. South has two minimum, so you won’t be trumped in the fourth hand. Lead the jack, because it’s the top of a sequence – it’ll set up the ten down the road, perhaps. It’s your best shot.

In conclusion: lead a heart! If you’re feeling stuck on a defense lead, sometimes choose the unbid suit – it’ll might yield results!
Do you dispute my claim? I’d love to hear from you – seriously, because I’m still learning, and always will be. Email me at [email protected] or send me a candy gram. I love Twix.

And now a problem for next week!

You’re sitting South and holding:
S – 3
H – A 7 6
D – K J 9 3 2
C – A J 8 4

North East South West

1D 1H
1S Pass 2C 2H
2S Pass ?

What do you call?

P.S. – If I’ve piqued your interest in the fabulous game, swing by bridge club sometime. Olin 2nd Floor Lounge, 3p.m. Fridays – come for the baked goods, stay because you feel awkward about leaving immediately after eating my cookies!