Monday, October 17, 2011

Classic Surround Play

When people are first taught about finesses, they are taught to lead low toward an honor, hoping some other honor is in front of the one you lead toward, but to only lead an honor for a finesse if you also have a touching honor (don't lead the J for a finesse of the Q unless you have the 10 also). That's a very good guideline – I still see many people who have been playing bridge a long time lead the Q from Axx opposite Qxx – also called a pseudo finesse or Chinese finesse. That does virtually nothing to help you get a second trick in the suit, assuming second hand correctly covers the honor so unless you have mastered the basic finesses, please skip the rest of this post or you may find yourself applying it out of context – taking Chinese finesses instead of making a surround play.
A surround play looks kind of like a Chinese finesse. Yesterday in the Swiss, Bob found a nice application use of a surround play and I happened to have just the right cards for it to help us set a contract. The rest of the hand is irrelevant – the only problem is EW need to take as many diamond tricks as they can right now. Dummy has a long suit that is ready to provide discards. This suit is very similar to the diamond suit from my pin the ten post earlier today except this time we are surrounding the ten. My partner (east) was in the lead and found the killing J.
Dealer: N
Vul: NS
Look at what happens when he leads the jack. If south plays low, the J wins and EW still have the AK. If south covers, west wins the A and now there is a simple finesse position against east's ten, again taking 3 tricks.
Note that the lead of the jack can't hurt. If declarer has the AQ, you were getting finessed anyway. If declarer has only the ace, it doesn't matter what we lead (and it's too late to take any tricks). If declarer has no honor, it doesn't matter. If declarer has Q9x or Q8x, it also doesn't matter because he is almost sure to finesse correctly if you lead low and win the third round of diamonds.

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