Unlikely Finesse

Zia Mahmood, the globe-trotting Pakistani expert, will represent the U.S. internationally next year. At the ACBL Summer Championships, Zia landed a shaky contract by taking an unlikely finesse.

North-South did well not to let East-West play at four spades, but it seemed Zia might go down at five hearts. The defense cashed two spades and led a diamond, and Zia took the ace and cashed the ace of trumps.

When West showed out, Zia could have tried the three top clubs, hoping to discard his remaining diamonds before picking up East's trumps with a finesse. Since East had only two clubs, that play would have failed.

FOUR CLUBS

Instead, Zia led a club at Trick Five ... and finessed with the ten! He expected West to hold four clubs, and probably the jack, for his double.

When the ten won, Zia continued with the ace and king. East ruffed; but Zia overruffed, took the king of trumps, and got to dummy with the six of trumps to pitch his last diamond on a high club.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S K J 8 5 3 H Q 10 3 D Q 8 7 C 9 8. Your partner opens one heart, and the next player passes. What do you say?

ANSWER: Bid two hearts, promising six to nine points with at least three trumps. The raise is superior to a response of one spade. (If partner next bid two of a minor suit, you'd try two hearts; but then he'd think you had only a tolerance for hearts, not real support.) Limit your strength and set the trump suit quickly.

Neither side vulnerable

NORTH

S 9 7

H 6 5 4

D 9 5

C A K Q 10 7 3

WEST

S A Q 4 2

H None

D K J 6 3 2

C J 6 5 2

EAST

S K J 8 5 3

H Q 10 3

D Q 8 7

C 9 8

SOUTH

S 10 6

H A K J 9 8 7 2

D A 10 4

C 4

East

Pass

2 S

Pass

All Pass

South

1 H

4 H

5 D

West

Dbl

4 S

Pass

North

Redbl

5 C

5 H

Opening lead -- S A

Copyright 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate