Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To Finesse for the Q or Not

Between sessions Sunday, Bryan and I were having a discussion about the correct way to play a trump suit with a 9 card fit missing the AQ. One of my friends played Weinstein in a KO and Weinstein correctly guessed to play low to the K, picking it up for 1 loser when Ax was in from of KJT9x with no interfering bidding. It must have been one of those table feel plays. At the other table, the play was low to the J for down 1 in a game and lose 12 in a match that was otherwise even.


With no other information about the hand, the percentage way to play the suit for 1 loser is low to the J. Comparing that to low to the K, it wins when 2nd hand has Qx, Qxx, AQx, AQxx and loses when 2nd hand has Ax or Axx. In all other layouts (any singleton onside or AQ offside), both lines come to the same number of tricks.


In the first round of our evening match. I had a trump suit in a spade partial (after rho had opened, I overcalled 1S and lho bid 1NT) with KJx in dummy and 97xxxx. Naturally, I played low to the J, losing to the stiff Q. With this bidding, low to the jack is definitely right, but interesting to note that this is pretty much the same as the previous hand except I don't have the spots. Low to the K now a slightly higher percentage play because the case where lho has Qxx is no longer a win for finessing the J (because Qxx is actually QT8 and still results in 2 losers).


A little later in the round, I got irritated when when the declarer thought he has taking a backward finesse when he was really just making a bad play by playing for the drop instead of a simple finesse for the Q with 8 trumps. With no potential problems of getting tapped out or us getting a ruff, declarer had Kx in hand and AJ98xx in dummy and no opposing bidding or any useful information about our distribution. So he plays low to the A and then leads the 9 back. I covered with the now-stiff Q, thus he made a game that I was sure Mili would go down in by doing the normal thing of playing the K and then low to the J. She did go down, and I'm glad. If you really want to finesse me for the Q, lead the J off dummy first. In this case, that's roughtly equivalent to playing for the drop, assuming you plan to finesse the 9 when the J is covered. (If you're not going to finesse the 9 next, it's worse than playing for the drop because you may have wasted the J to pick up a stiff Q.) Anyway, this picks up QTxx offside for one loser when all other lines must lose 2 tricks on that layout so it can only be right if rho is known to have trump length. Fortunately, as is usually the case playing reasonably weak players, I stole it back soon enough.


  1. Which Weinstein? Because if it was the one my age, then I wanted to say that he was in a bunch of my math classes at Harvard. Nice guy and super-smart, but that's probably not a big surprise.