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Jan 29

Hiding information at matchpoints

 

Here is another hand from last Sunday.  It is actually the very last hand we played.  I was dummy during the previous hand and noticed that the directors had posted the preliminary results on the wall behind me; at my great surprise we were having a slightly above average game, so combined with our near-60% first session (we came in 3rd, half a board ahead of the 4th), we still had some chance of qualifying.  As I sort my cards for the last board, I immediately see that the board will not be a flat one, as I hold AKQ762QJT87KJ-.
 
We have an uncontested auction:
West Martin East Antony
      1
P 21 P 3
P 3 P 4

1. balanced 12-14 or 18+
 
Some club wastage could be expected so I go low and stop in game.
 
A small club is led and I get the following dummy — so much for the "expected club wastage"!
South deals
EW vul
Martin
JT3
932
A54
AKQ2
Antony
AKQ762
QJT87
KJ
 
So here is the big question: do I want to risk a diamond finesse to make 4 or 6, or play it safe and get my 450?  I start by drawing trumps in two rounds, ending in dummy, and…  Our current score finally swings my decision (I was expecting a much worse session) and take my eleven tricks.  After all, other declarers may have been limited to ten tricks after immediately losing two hearts and a ruff.  This proved itself worth an average-minus, as, of course, the king was onside (but even 480 would have been — barely — not enough to qualify).  The full hand was:
South deals
EW vul
Martin
JT3
932
A54
AKQ2
54
K5
T873
JT763
98
A64
Q962
9854
Antony
AKQ762
QJT87
KJ
 
Still, the more I think about the hand, the more I am convinced that an immediate diamond finesse is correct at matchpoints.  If the heart honors are split it would be very hard for the opponents to find the killing lead (even if other declarers may choose not to bid their hearts, in an auction such as 1-2-3-4), so I'm actually not that much ahead of the field; if will also be quite hard for West to find a heart return holding Kx(x); and finally there is the remote chance of the hearts being blocked.
 
Of course, the more I delay the finesse, the easier it will be for my opponents to find the heart return.  Say, for example, that I start by drawing two rounds of trumps, ending in dummy with the jack (I don't really have the choice as there is no other entry).  If the opponents are giving each other diamond count, then they should expect me to have 6=5=2=0 shape, and once the diamond hook loses, my LHO can see that I am going to pitch four hearts away, so he may as well hope his partner has the ace.  On the other hand, if I immediately take the finesse, I may have for example KQxxxAQxxKJxx- and be trying to ruff my last diamond (with such a hand I cannot afford to try drawing trumps first) — in which case a heart returns unnecessarily gives a trick away.  Still, my reluctance at immediately cashing the clubs should ring a bell somewhere.