Repeat after me – think hard at trick one
It’s drummed into us from an early age, along with eat all your vegetables, and wash your hands before meals. Plan your play (or defense) before playing to trick one.
Yet, it is a common failing for many bridge players. In fact there is a recent cool hand written up by Henry Bethe in which he points out new USA 2 Champion John Hurd missed a play at trick one in a key slam.
The lead was a diamond against John’s 6 hearts, and he had AJ10xx on the board, and the stiff king in his hand. The line of play that guaranteed the contract was to rise with the ace of diamonds from dummy at trick one, (counter-intuitively killing his own (redundant) king.
Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi !
Bethe’s analysis can be found at at http://www.bridgewinners.com/play-of-the-hand-articles/866-embarras-des-richesses-a-bridge-qmovieq
For the record, John Hurd and his team mates played really well during the trials and were deserving and worthy champions.
Anyway, today’s hand. Playing in a money matchpoints game of unimaginable importance, our hero held A1074 QJ93 82 KQ10
He opened the bidding one club, and partner responded 2 diamonds, announcing a game forcing hand with club support. Our hero bid 2NT, and his partner now jumped to 4NT. There would no accepting this invitation, and so the final contract was 4NT. The lead was the diamond jack, and this is what he saw:
He counted five clubs, two spades, and two aces on top. He decided to rely on one of two finesses to make the contract. (A solid 75% chance)
Our hero finessed the diamond queen at trick one, and this lost to east’s king, who led back another; ducked; and then a third diamond taken by declarer with the ace.
A short while later he took a losing finesse in hearts and ended up down one. Ironically, his score was almost average as a few pairs had ventured the no play slam.
But of course, you all know the winning play was to rise with the diamond ace at trick one. It can never ever be wrong – even at pairs I believe. It’s a 100% line of play.
You plan to take a heart finesse into east’s hand. East is not a threat, even if the finesse loses. He cannot pierce the dummy’s gizzard with another diamond, so you will for sure have ten tricks at least. Two spades, two hearts, a diamond, and five club tricks.
And you still have possibilities for an eleventh trick. (Analytical geeks can work that out for themselves, it’s not the point of this article)
The full layout was :