Play Basics: Suit Combinations, Part 2

By Kitty and Steve Cooper

In our previous Play Basics column we showed how laying out the cases that matter for a suit combination is a good way to figure out the way to handle it. In deciding which line to take you can ignore the cases where the options you are considering either both succeed or both fail. You focus on the ones where the outcome is different and then go for the play which wins more often. If you like numbers, you can add up the percentages, but most of the time that is not necessary.

Your homework assignment was to work out the best way to play A432 opposite Q10987 for one loser. If you play ace and another you lose when your RHO has KJx or KJxx. If you take the double finesse, running the 10 and then the queen, you lose when LHO  has KJx, KJxx, or KJ doubleton. So it would seem that unless you know RHO is likely to have the length in the suit, ace and another is best. Is there a better play?

What if you lead low towards dummy’s ten? If the ten wins or loses to the king, you can play the ace and back towards the queen. If the ten loses to the jack, you run the queen coming back. Only rarely will you deal with a defender good enough (or inattentive enough) to duck with Kx on the first round, so in real life this play will only lose to Kxx on your left and singleton jack on your right; it should pick up all the KJ to length combinations on either side.

Did you think of that line? It does not help to be able to lay out the cases if you do not try all the various ways you might play a suit.

Having nine cards is better than having eight because there are fewer combinations to think about. With only eight cards you would finesse twice with most broken suit holdings like these. With A432 in your hand opposite Q1098 in the dummy, you would lead the 10 first for the finesse . Why the 10? In case there is a singleton king or a void over the dummy so you can take all the tricks in the suit. But wait a minute, if your LHO would never duck with the Kx is it better to play towards the 10 like in the nine card combination? The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge says it is. Your homework challenge is to lay the cases out and decide which is best for yourself.


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