Prof. Tony Campbell CBE

WHEN playing a hand as declarer a key decision is if and when to draw trumps.

Furthermore, it is important also to decide whether to draw all the opponents’ trumps. Such a hand turned up recently in a recent Penarth-Sully online session. A vital question for declarer was whether to take a finesse in the trump suit or not.

The Auction

South opened the bidding with his five-card club suit. North, his partner, decided to show his diamond suit before spades, hoping South had a four-card major. He did and so responded with a spade. North was now expecting South to have a strong hand, but in case he was simply 5/4 in clubs and spades, with just 13 or 14 points, North only jumped to three spades. With a good seventeen count, South was very happy to convert this to game in four spades.

The play

After some thought West decided to lead the seven of hearts, his fourth highest in this suit. Declarer played low from dummy, leaving East to ponder which card to play, the ace or the ten. If he played the ace, then this would allow declarer to make dummy’s queen if West held the king. But the rule of eleven again saved the day. This told East that there could only be four cards higher than the seven in the North, East and South hands. East could see all four, one in dummy and three in his hand. So, he knew his partner, West, must have the king and jack of hearts. East played the ten, which happily for him won the trick. East then played the ace and another heart, declarer ruffing. Declarer then paused to consider the hand. If the clubs were 3/3 then it was straight forward. But if not, he needed to ruff at least one club in dummy, or even two if either East or West held five clubs. Since West was likely to have five hearts on his lead, it was certainly possible East had five clubs. Alternatively, declarer could take the diamond finesse, a risky play. On the other hand, if he decided to take the spade finesse and this lost, West would return his third spade preventing two club ruffs in dummy and a diamond ruff in his own hand. So correctly declarer decided to refuse both the spade and diamond finesses. He drew only two rounds of trumps with the ace and king. Fortunately, the spades were 3/2, a 68% chance. Declarer then won the next trick with the ace of clubs. He followed this with the king of clubs, revealing what South had feared, East did have five clubs to the jack. West ruffed this with the queen of spades and then led the ten of diamonds. Declarer paused. Was West bluffing? Who held the queen of diamonds? Declarer rightly refused the finesse and won the trick with the ace. He returned to hand by ruffing the four of diamonds and played the queen of clubs, discarding dummy’s jack. Declarer was then able to claim the last two tricks with dummy’s last two trumps, the eight and six of spades. The contract therefore made with ten tricks for a score of 620: two spades, two spade ruffs in dummy, two spade ruffs in hand, two diamonds and two clubs, losing just the ace and king of hearts and the queen of spades. Well played for making the contract without taking a finesse. Any finesse in spades or diamonds would make the contract go one off.

What have we learnt?

1. When you have a strong hand as opener as here, take care not to jump to quickly in the subsequent bids.

2. As a defender in third position after your partner’s lead, do not be too hasty to win the trick with your ace, as this may set up a trick for declarer and make things easy for him.

3. When you have the possibility of taking finesses, take care to examine all the possible distributions in the opponents’ hands.

Penarth club results

Here are the results of last week sessions from the Penarth-Sully online bridge, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. Click on Results and then the date. Wednesday 14th July; 1. Anita Charles and Tisch Beere (61.9%); 2=. Judy Collins and Janet Cunnington with Val Hetheridge and Martin Thomas (53.1%); Friday 16th July; 1. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (62.7%); 2. Marnie Owens and Peter Craig (58.7); 3. Jim Elder and Meryl Skipper (56.4%); Please contact me or Meryl Skipper if you want to join. Peter Sampson’s highly successful ladder has started again. The current first three positions are: 1. Meryl Skipper and Joy Seculer; 2. Peter Millar and Mick Green; 3. Mike Downey and Roy Holloway.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are available online. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.