Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Rodwell Chapter 5 … The Naming of Things

Chapter 5 is magnificent.  My advice to experts is to skip chapters 1-4 (but don’t skip the defogging questions at the end of Chapter 4).  What is so good about Chapter 5?  It quickly (I mean quickly) covers ideas, many of which are new to me.  Perhaps you have seen some of them before.  I doubt most people have thought about many of them.  I doubt almost anybody is familiar with all of these plays.

I have executed some of these plays by deducing what to do at the table.  But by classifying them and yes, giving them a name, you don’t have to work these things out each time while staring at dummy.   I want to talk about why I think naming things is so helpful to me (and probably to most people).  Suppose I say the words Deschapelles Coup to a strong player.  They will know that I mean the lead of an unsupported honor to create an entry to partner’s hand.  A Merrimac Coup sacrifices a high card to eliminate a vital entry to one of the opponent’s hand and one of my personal favorites is a Morton’s Fork where a defender has the choice of winning a trick giving declarer two winners or ducking and having a trick disappear.  Because I know these names and the ideas behind them I can visualize these plays when I see dummy.  I don’t have to completely work it out each time.  I can explain it to others and teach them about the idea and I can talk to my friends about my “Morton’s Fork.”  In all these cases the name doesn’t directly tell you about the play but it gives you a handle for the play.  Some names given to bridge card plays do actually describe the situation.  For example an intrafinesse describes a kind of “internal” or “middle” finesse (hence the word intra) which later sets up a smother play.  Now smother play is another descriptive term.  When I first heard of the idea of an intrafinesse I was fairly recently back to bridge after a many year hiatus.  Ray and I had started a magazine called Canadian Master Point.   David Lindop wrote an article about the intrafinesse in the Januray 1992 issue (available as a free download from  I had never seen this idea before and it really isn’t a simple idea but once I learned it and named it then I could recognize the position without thinking deeply about it.

What about a finesse?  The name doesn’t actually describe the play.  But because the name has become so associated with the play, now it actually means the situation it describes.  Why is there not a name for leading up to an honor in a situation where you have something like Axx opposite Qxx.  It isn’t a traditional finesse as most people think of it.  But Eric calls it a ‘lobbing finesse’ — and now I have something that identifies it.

Anyway, the important thing is to learn the concepts and remember the concepts and this chapter, which is very long, is filled with concepts.  Many are new to me although a lot of them build on ideas I have seen before.  Some I have even executed at the table but have never really classified the concept as a type of play for my arsenal.  I cannot believe that almost anyone who hasn’t won a bunch of world championships will not learn something from chapter 5.  Didn’t I say it was magnificent?  Plays are generally grouped by class (entry plays, avoidance plays, positional plays and so on).   Concepts that have been introduced such as a Chinese finesse or a pusher play are built on throughout the text.  The chapter has some example hands but my favorites are examples from real play where not only is the specific concept illustrated but Eric describes his thinking about the hand introducing other interesting points, some small and some fascinating.

I am not going to claim I have learned all the ideas in this chapter in one reading.  Maybe when I was 17 I might have been able to do that but not any more.  (Well, really not even then.)  So this is going to take a few more readings.  I am not prepared to leave this chapter just yet so any further blogs on the book will be delayed.  (And my grandson is coming tomorrow for a visit from Vancouver).

I want to give an example of a play from the book that I found fresh and new and that you might enjoy but it is a matter of which one to chose.  There is the ‘entry fly’ (where you can force an opponent to choose between giving you an extra entry or ruining the defenders’ communications),  avoidance plays like the finesse through safety, the ‘intrasquash’, a type of intrafinesse safety play. ‘Cash and thrash’ is one of Ray’s favorites where you have a weak trump position and may cash a round or so and then leave one or more trumps out while cashing winners.  There are in fact 25 types of named declarer plays listed in the index for this chapter.

The Exposing Overtake is a simple yet elegant idea.  As Eric describes it declarer has a wealth of high cards in a suit and overtakes a winner to allow for a subsequent finesse in this suit should it prove needed.  It seems strange.  You are crashing honors with the idea of later finessing?  Bear with me – it’s really an unblocking play.  An example really helps.  Eric gives several examples of this type of play; here is the simplest one.











Eric played this hand in a team game at a regional.  He was playing 3NT after an uncontested auction.    West led the Q, won in dummy.   You have nine tricks off the top.  SInce you are playing IMPs you don’t want to take any chances, so you need to be very sure before you try for an overtrick.  You could finesse the heart after playing a club to your hand.  Even if the heart play loses, the opponents can’t take enough diamond tricks to defeat you.  Your only worry is that clubs might be 5-0.  Ray told me a story the other day from a forthcoming book by Norwegian world champion Boye Brogeland where he apparently kept taking high probability shots for an uptrick at IMPs on the basis that the extra IMP is worth the risk if your chances of going down are very small (Boye comments that you have to be prepared for the remarks from your team-mates when you call out ‘minus 100’ at the compare!).  I won’t tell you what happened when he did just that, but the book is appropriately titled Bridge at the Edge.

But here you don’t have to worry about a 5-0 club break because you can make an “exposing overtake” play.  At trick two you lead the Q.  If East follows then he is the only one who can have five clubs so you overtake the Q with the A.  If West shows out you will still be able to pick up clubs by finessing the eight.  Had you played a small club to the hand to take the heart finesse you would have troubles and have turned a 100% contract into something much worse.  (Of course if East shows out you don’t overtake.)

As we Canadians say: “Cool, eh?”


David Memphis MOJO SmithAugust 25th, 2011 at 10:49 pm

“Why is there not a name for leading up to an honor in a situation where you have something like Axx opposite Qxx. ”

In college bridge, we used to call that an “open finesse.” I haven’t heard it called that since, so maybe that was a wacky student term.

Linda LeeAugust 26th, 2011 at 10:19 am

I think open finesse is actually quite a good name but I have never heard it.

What did you think of chapter 5 David.

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