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In search of extra tricks

“When making extra tricks, Don’t FLAP, think F, L & P”.

“F” is for Force: with, say K3 facing QJ2, lead the king to force out the opposing ace, promoting your queen-jack.

“L” is for Length: with, say K2 facing AQ543, play the king, then over to the ace-queen; if the suit splits 3-3 you have two length winners; if 4-2 you can give them (trump) the fourth round, so promoting your fifth.

“P” is for Position, the finesse: with, say AQJ facing 432, lead the two to the jack. If the position of the king is favourable (i.e. playing second), the jack will be promoted; cross back and lead to the queen.

These are the three basic methods of card promotion (without needing trumps). Sometimes you can combine them...

South Deals
Both Vul
A 2
K 10 7
7 6 3
K J 10 6 3
J 10 9 8
9 5
Q 10 4
A Q 9 8
W   E
Q 6 3
A 8 6 3 2
9 8 5 2
K 7 5 4
Q J 4
7 4 2
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 NT
All pass      

What happened
West led  J, an alluring sequence. Declarer won  A, and when East failed to drop the  Q he was known to hold (which he would do as an unblocking manoeuvre with a doubleton) correctly presumed the spade suit to be splitting 4-3.

What he did next was not correct. He played  3 to  J. West won  Q, plugged away with a second spade to  Q and  K, and the defence had five tricks: two spades,  A,  Q and  A. They made a sixth,  Q, when declarer’s first club play was  2 to  K. Down two.

What should have happened
First count up top tricks:  AK and  AK make just four. But don’t flap - think F, L and P. Dummy’s fine five-card club suit is ripe for establishment, the correct approach when missing two key honours is first to finesse against the lower. Win Trick One with  K, so that you are in the right hand to lead  2 to  8 and  10 (winning). Then lead to  K (refusing the finesse - it can be taken later if necessary), and play  4 to  9 and  J (East discarding).

Next lead  7 to  J, winning if East plays low (it doesn’t matter), and follow with  7. Say West rises with  A and plays  8. Win  A (East unblocking  Q), cash  K (felling  Q) and  6, then lead  K. East wins  A and the defence cash  109, but you can win any return and cash promoted  Q. Nine tricks - via  AK, two hearts (force winners),  AK, and four clubs (position and length). All three methods of card promotion were used.

If you remember just one thing...
“When making extra tricks, Don’t FLAP, think F, L & P”. Force, Length, and Position (the finesse).

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