Playing with TGBH

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 08/01/2021

Earlier this year, I partnered the Great Bob Hamman in a live BBO game. We were playing in front of an audience with me narrating as I bid and played randomly-dealt BBO deals--lots of pressure! I arrived in 6 with this layout:

 AQ92 A95 K82 A64 53 KJ762 AQJ43 9

A club was led and I explained to my audience that in a suit contract, I start by counting losers.  Unless diamonds are 5-0, the only potential losers are in the majors. If the K is wrong, I will need hearts 3-2 onside (the odds favor finessing with 8, not playing for the drop). But, what if the K is onside? Now, I can afford to lose a heart trick.

Can you figure out the safe way to play hearts for at most 1 loser (let's assume they aren't 5-0)?

Because of the 9 in dummy (thanks, Bob), there is a well-known solution. You don't want to start with the A. If you do and RHO started with a small singleton, you will lose 2 tricks. The answer is to start with the K. Let's assume everyone plays low. Now you lead a low heart towards the A9. If LHO shows out, no problem. You go up with the ace and lead another, losing only one trick to RHO's Q10xx. If LHO plays the 10 or Q there is also no problem. And if LHO follows low, you insert dummy's 9. If it loses, the suit was 3-2. If it wins, your safety play was needed.

So, would it be the safety play or play hearts "normally" (ace and finesse)? To decide,  I needed to know if the spade finesse was winning. If so, I would make the safety play in hearts. If not, I would need to play for 3-2 hearts onside.

How do I get to my hand for the spade finesse? My first instinct was to trump a club, but then I risk running out of trumps. Cross in diamonds? That risks an eventual diamond ruff. I decided that if LHO had a singleton diamond, he likely would have led it. So, I crossed in diamonds and took a spade finesse. It won. Now a heart to the king and a heart towards the 9.

It turns out, that on the Real Deal, hearts were 3-2 all along. But the layout below is what I was catering to.  Note: Trying to play bridge and narrate to the audience at the same time is not something I recommend unless you have a big bottle of aspirin close by.

 AQ92 A95 K82 A64 K104 Q1083 97 Q1052 J876 4 1065 KJ873 53 KJ762 AQJ43 9