Playing Intermediates #002 – Having intermediate cards of 10s, 9s, 8s and sometimes 7s, especially when combined with honors, give texture (body) in suits where having a holding of ♠AQ1098 will play better than ♠AQ1092 which will play better than ♠ AQ1042 which will play better than ♠AQ542. Unfortunately, it is ♠AQ542 that are trumps in this deal.
When you look at these two hands don't you wish you could trade South's club suit holding of ♣AJ1076 with 5 hcp (probably worth 4 tricks) for North's spade suit of ♠AQ542 with 6 hcp (lucky to win 3 tricks)?
There is nothing special about this auction, after three passes South opens 1NT, and regardless of systems, all pairs should reach the contract of 4 ♠ .
So, how do you play spades without intermediates?
So here is the complete deal.
With the notrump opener (strong hand) on the right, West does not want to lead a king or lead away from a king, so the ♦ 5 looks safe. Analyzing the play of the hand, surely East/West will find their heart tricks so the contact seems to hinge on finesses against the black kings (ominous). Declarer (South) wins the opening lead in hand with the ♦ A (hiding the ♦ K) and preserving the ♦ Q as an entry to dummy to take a finesse against the ♣ K.
So how does South play on spades (card combinations 101), William Root (teacher, author, etc.) says in his book How to Play a Bridge Hand that "you cannot learn to play a hand [of bridge] until you learn to play a suit." Holding ♠J8x opposite ♠AQxxx (missing not only the ♠ K, but also the ♠ 10 and ♠ 9) it cannot be right to finesse the ♠ J looking for the ♠ K. If West covers the jack with the king then it is possible to loose 2-tricks to the ♠ 10 and ♠ 9 and in this textbook case East, in fact, holds ♠ 10976.
The correct play is a small spade to the ♠ AQ (lead up to honors) and finesse the ♠ Q, if the ♠ Q wins cash the ♠ A, hopefully dropping the ♠ K. On this deal the ♠ K drops right away and South only loses 1 spade trick. If South finesses the ♠J, the contract will go down 2. Ok, so when this board was played in spades it was -1 (down one) three times and -2 (down two) four times and played in 2 ♠ two times. Down one for -100 was 4.5 matchpoints for 56.2% on this deal ... the big matchpoints were for the two part-scores (go figure).
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