Aldous Huxley’s book “Themes and Variations” was published in 1950. It included this sentence: Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

Beginning bridge players soon learn not to take much for granted. There are so many variations on themes– this deal, for example.

Yesterday, I discussed the right play for J-9-6-4 opposite A-Q-10-7. In isolation, taking the finesse is correct. In theory, it will win 50 percent of the time. A priori, the king will be singleton offside a little under one time in 33. But in yesterday’s deal, taking the finesse was wrong, because the king was known to be offside from the bidding. That does not apply here, but why is it an error for South to take the spade finesse in three no-trump after West leads a fourthhighest heart seven to East’s queen and declarer’s king?

If North had used Stayman, South would have been in four spades, a contract that would have normally required either the spade finesse to work or a good heart guess (or heart lead from West).

In three no-trump, South has seven top tricks: one spade, one heart (trick one), three diamonds and two clubs. He will obviously play on spades for the extra winners, and if that finesse is working, he can gain an overtrick. However, if it loses and West led from a five- or six-card suit, the contract will fail. Declarer should fight to keep East off the lead. He should start with the spade jack, to encourage a cover by West, but then rise with dummy’s ace. If the king drops, great; if the royal does not appear, South leads another spade and hopes for the best.

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