May 28th, 2005

Weekly bridge column

				 
                                       INTRA-FINESSE
					     
				     by Stephen Rzewski
	    
             IMPS
	    vul:  both
	    dlr:  East		          North

				         ♠ K943
				         ♥ J63
				         ♦ K7
				         ♣ Q984
			   West			      East

		          ♠ QJ102		     ♠ 85
		          ♥ Q972		     ♥ AK10854
		          ♦ 853			     ♦ Q2
		          ♣ 103			     ♣ KJ2
					  South

					 ♠ A76
					 ♥ -----
					 ♦ AJ10964
					 ♣ A765

	       bidding:     E        S          W          N

                           1♥        2♦         3♥         P
                            P       dbl         P          4♠
		            P        P         dbl         5♦
                            P        P          P       

	 opening lead:  ♥ 2

	Success at declarer play depends greatly on both one’s short-term and long-
term memory.  Short-term memory is essential for recalling which cards have already 
been played during a hand, or how many trumps are still out.  Long-term memory is 
needed for remembering how to handle complex cases that recur infrequently.  On 
today’s hand, South succeeded because he remembered reading about the critical card 
combination in a bridge article some two years previous.

	West’s 3♥ call was a pre-emptive raise, showing typically 4-card support and 
fewer than 6 high-card points.  South’s double was primarily for takeout, showing a 
willingness to play other suits, but also promising extra values and defense in case 
his partner chose to convert the double to penalties. With fair values herself, North 
decided to jump to 4♠, but retreated to 5♦ when West doubled, fearful that there 
might be a bad split with her anemic suit.

	South ruffed the heart lead, played a diamond to dummy’s king and a diamond 
back.  When the queen appeared, he took the ace and drew a third round of trumps. 
Since there was a sure spade loser, South’s problem was to avoid losing two club 
tricks with the following combination:

				      Q984

				      A765			

	Prospects did not appear good.  The normal play in clubs is to play ace and 
low toward the queen, hoping for the king to be on the left.  That was unlikely for 
two reasons:  East had opened the bidding and was more likely to have the missing 
high cards, and West, who probably had a few points in the spade suit for his double, 
denied having many high-card points for his pre-emptive raise.  

	Another possibility might be to hope that East held K-x doubleton and duck 
the second club altogether, letting the king beat air.  South was pretty sure that 
was not going to work, however, because he had an inferential count on the opponents’ 
hands.  If West had four hearts, then East had six.  East probably held at most two 
spades (remember West’s double), and, with only two diamonds, figured to have at 
least three clubs.

	Of course West might have a lucky J-10 doubleton of clubs, a real longshot. 
But South remembered learning a play called the “intra-finesse”, which allowed for 
the much more reasonable chance of West holding either J-x or 10-x of clubs.  

	Declarer started clubs with a low one from his hand, and when West followed 
low, he put in dummy’s 9.  East won the jack and got out with a heart.  South ruffed, 
led a spade to dummy’s king, and played the queen of clubs, pinning West’s 10.  East 
could cover or not, it didn’t matter.  South managed to lose only one club and made 
his contract.

	It would not have helped if West had played his 10 on the first club lead. 
In that event, declarer would cover with the queen, lose to the king, and would have 
a simple finessing position against East’s jack.  That would also work if West had 
started with a singleton 10 or jack.

	Store this combination in your long-term memory.  It may prove to be useful 
one day.  And also remember not to follow West’s example:  if you think the opponents 
are in a troubled contract, don’t double unless you can also do the same when they 
run to a different one.