From “Take All Your Chances” by Eddie Kantar

How should you attack these hands? If you are declaring a notrump contract, count your sure tricks. If you don’t have enough to make the contract (you won’t!) look for some way to develop that missing trick or tricks. If you see at least two lines of play to secure those extra tricks, stay alive! Give yourself a chance to take both lines. At trump contracts counting losers and sure tricks is the way to go. If the total doesn’t come to 13, count your cards.

There are many hands where more than one line of play exists to make your contract. If you select the best percentage line, your chance of making the hand increases, but if you don’t … But why take the worst of it? The idea is to take the line of play, which if it doesn’t work, still allows you to take the other line, and there ever may even be a third line! This is called “staying alive”; in other words, avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket!

Unfortunately, but realistically, there will be hands where you have to decide immediately between several lines of play. The opponents have forced your hand and there is no time to try one line and then switch to another if the first doesn’t work. Now it helps to know a bit about percentages or the odds.

The bidding will be given and explained. Use the bidding as a guide in the play.

Assume IMP scoring. Play to make and do not worry about overtricks or undertricks.

West North East South
1 Pass 2♣
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass 3 Pass 5
All Pass

You open 1 and rebid 2 after partner’s 2♣ response.
Partner raises to 3, you try 3 looking for a spade stopper, and partner leaps to 5, the final contract.

West leads the ♠K and then a spade to East’s ace. East returns the inevitable heart and there you are. Plan the play.

Finessing the heart is a perfect example of a practice finesse. The definition of a practice finesse is this: If it works, it doesn’t help, and if it loses it could cost the contract, not to mention one’s partner.

If you finesse the heart, even if it works, you still need the club finesse. But if the club finesse works, you don’t need the heart finesse! Why take two finesses when one will do? However, it does keep one in practice.

Win the A, draw trumps, lead the jack of clubs to the ace, return to the closed hand with a trump and run the ♣9. Either you make the hand or you go down two. But at least you played it properly and best of all, you didn’t take a practice finesse!

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