Cross that bridge:

The Second

Time Around

Second Time Around
by Al Peters and Al Spaet

Not long ago, a Four Spade contract played at both tables in a sectional team-of-four event  decided match results. Both Wests made a somewhat conservative decision to stay out of the auction;  They faced passing partners, and their hands lacked the spot card “fillers” that can make competing for a partial reasonably safe. Both eventually led the Queen of Hearts.

Both South players assumed eight winners by way of 5 spades in hand, two top hearts and a likely 3rd round heart ruff in Dummy. And when both played two rounds of trump and led a club toward Dummy’s king, both West defenders rose with their Aces. Both Easts contributed their Jack on this trick to suggest the top of a sequence, allowing both Wests to exit safely by leading the Club Queen to Dummy’s king.

Both Declarers now had 9 tricks.  But at this point, the lines of declarer play diverged.  

South at Table 1, needing one trick from diamonds, decided that East held the Diamond Ace. This South reasoned that West, silent during the auction, had by the opening lead shown a heart holding headed by the queen and jack, and had also played both the Ace and Queen of Clubs. The Ace of Diamonds would mean that West had failed to enter the auction with 13 high card points – something South thought unlikely. So when East played the Four of Diamonds on Dummy’s lead, South rose with the King - and quickly lost two more diamonds for down one.

Our Declarer at Table 2 believed a diamond towards the king was likely to be the winning play, but also that playing to the King of Diamonds could wait. Instead, when East played the four, South took the Deep Finesse by playing the Ten. West could win or duck, but in either case South’s diamond winner would in the bag. And if West had held the Jack, the Queen, or both, and exited safely with a heart or a club, South would maneuver to lead another diamond toward the King.  If the Ace of Diamonds started on-side, it would have still been there the second time around.

It’s perhaps remarkable that both the auctions and the play to the first six tricks at both tables were identical, and that both West players had opted to avoid making a earlier takeout double. But once they did, they did well as defenders to display their high card values outside of diamonds, giving South a chance to misread the diamond position and be lured into an inferior line of play.  Mostly, we congratulate South at Table Two for realizing that in this case the deep diamond finesse was a play that could only gain, and never lose.
Al Peters and Al Spaet of the Bridge Center of Greater Tucson co-develop this series of articles locally for the Oro Valley Voice. Visit the Center’s website at