To Take a Safety Play or Not?
by Andre Asbury on February 2nd, 2011
Dressing up for tournaments feels good. It was my New Year’s resolution to dress nicer for bridge tournaments, not that I was a slob before – just jeans and a collared shirt and sneakers are nothing special. People are nicer to me (well, 98% of the people are nice to me anyway but now it’s like 100%) and it’s somehow easier to ignore the little annoying things many people do. Maybe it’s the outfits. Maybe it’s the winning. I don’t know.
In Wilmington, NC for the last 3 days of the regional, Sean and I had 4 sessions in the A/X pairs, each between 57.34% and 62.50%. That was good for a first and third and we were quite pleased. Sunday, we managed 2nd in X in the Swiss. Sean may have found some success away from the bridge table, too. 😉
Anyway, I’m sure I did lots of good things (although winning pair games isn’t so much about doing brilliant things as it is about giving the opponents a chance to make a mistake and not screwing up the easy hands), but today I am writing about my one and only possible declarer play mistake this week. It was round 9 Saturday night and I knew we were still well in the hunt to be first overall for a second straight day, but I was a lazy declarer here.
We had a canapé auction but the same concepts should apply here as in a 2/1 auction. I generally think 3♥ is asking for a heart stopper and then 3NT over the 3♠ as showing a tentative heart stopper. I thought one of us should have bid 4♠ instead of 3NT but I’m not sure who. Anyway, In 3NT I got the deuce of hearts lead. I ducked twice and then quickly played ♦AK, kind of figuring that even if I have to lose a diamond, they can only take 1 more heart and I’d still make the contract. I didn’t bother checking to see about their leads until after the hand was over when I found out they play 3rd/5th leads against NT. Even knowing that, it’s not entirely clear whether west led a 3 or 5 card suit since the auction kind of screamed for a heart lead. 4♠ is almost sure to make 4, even with a diamond loser and 5 or 6 if you pick up diamonds for no losers (depending on whether you pick up the Q). But will the field be in 4♠? Doubtful. It’s probably going to be a 1♦-2♦-2♠-3♣-3NT auction at most tables. That puts the other hand on lead but that auction strongly suggests a heart lead as well. The auction also might just go 1♦-2♦-3NT, which would probably get a black suit lead, thereby making 5NT easily enough. So, the number of spades you could make is not too important in determining how to play the hand.
Had I “known” that hearts were splitting 5-3 from checking their CC, does that make the double finesse in diamonds the percentage play? At matchpoints? I’m not so sure but it’s definitely something I should have thought about. It loses an overtrick when east has singleton or doubleton honor (but not QJ tight, assuming you follow the rule of restricted choice), but gains when west has QJx(x). Additionally, it gives up the option to finesse spades later and get more overtricks as the spade entry to hand would be needed to lead diamonds thereby limiting you to 10 tricks when diamonds are right unless there’s a Q doubleton of spades. Interesting hand.
The results: 690, 3×660, 650, 600, 2×150, 5x-100, so 1 pair found the safer 4S, 2 played presumably a diamond partscore, and those that made 3NT mostly made overtricks.