Join Bridge Winners
Finesses, Finesses Everywhere
(Page of 13)

At favorable vulnerability, in a Swiss match, you pick up:

South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
P
3
P
?

Partner deals and opens with a Precision 1, and East overcalls 1.  We use negative free bids here, so this is a perfect 2 call. 

If partner raises, will you bid a game

 

Sure.  The initial call limits your strength, so the raise usually seeks extra shape.  The hand is decent, and the spade singleton rates to be very useful.

 

In practice, however, West raises to 2, before partner raises:

South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
?

So, here, partner might well be competing to 3, with a hand that would not invite.  Your singleton spade still looks nice, and all of your nines might carry some weight, but ...

Your call.

South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
?

This one is pretty close, and it could easily be right to quit.  I probably would at matchpoints, but IMP odds never favor stopping at exactly three of a major.  When the decision is close, and you are playing IMPs, bid game!

West leads the 9.  They use standard leads and carding, so the nine suggests no higher honor.  Partner tables a real minimum, so you will need quite a lot of luck:

West
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
2

Still, there are very good chances if the trumps are friendly.  You win the spade ace and lead a trump.  Will you insert the nine or the jack?

The nine, of course.  This is a pretty simple suit combination.  Your play only really matters when East started with KQ5, K105, Q105, or KQ105.  Playing the jack caters to only one of those cases. 

Still, it is worth mentioning that this type of suit combination is not always so easy.  Imagine this setting:

North
AJ943
South
62

Picture this as a side suit in a game contract, with no outside entry to those hearts.  South needs two tricks from this suit to succeed.  How should South play?

If the suit is 3-3, the only hope is that the heart king and queen are onside, at least against competent defenders.  West, holding, say, K105 would put up the king on the first round, and hold you to one heart trick.

If East is known to hold only two hearts, you have two choices:  Low to the jack works when East holds 10x or xx - six cases.  Low to the nine will work when East holds Kx or Qx - also six cases.  Obviously, if West puts up an honor on the first round, you can duck and finesse again, or duck, and drop the offside honor - again a wash.

In any event, if you don't have a count, the percentage play is low to the jack, and that is as good as low to the nine even when you know hearts are 4-2.  

This suit combination is complicated because a good defender can often put up an honor from H10x.  So, when no honor appears, the odds may shift, and playing the jack may be best.  Of course, that applies only when the defenders know you hold a five card suit.  On this auction, you could easily have six hearts.  Putting up the king from K105 won't fare too well when West was dealt a singleton queen or ace!  On this auction, you can't draw any inferences from the play of the five.  So, you try the nine.  

Too bad.  West wins the ten and plays another spade.

So, you will need to hold your minor suit losers to one. 

One possibility is to play for a partial elimination - club to the queen, club ace, trump ace, exit in clubs.  This will work if both kings are onside, if clubs are 3-2, and if the player winning the third club has no more trumps.  Possible, but that seems way against the odds.  If we want to play for two specific cards onside, why not the club king and jack?  No, we may as well tackle each minor suit in a way to avoid any losers there.

West
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
2

What is the best way to tackle clubs?  Diamonds?

West
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
2

Clubs are easy.  Certainly we will finesse twice.  Since we may well need entries to hand later for diamond plays, we want to preserve the 9.  So, we will start clubs by playing a club to the ten.

There are more options in diamonds.  If we suspect that West is short in diamonds, we would try a low diamond to the queen, and cash the ace.  This avoids a diamond loser when West has a singleton or doubleton king.

If we suspect that West has four (or more) diamonds, we have two choices - double finesse, or start with the jack and try to drop the ten from East.  The double finesse is clearly better - even if diamonds are 4-2, West will hold the ten more often than East.  Finally, if diamonds are 3-3, the only hope is the double finesse. 

Since we have no reason to suspect that West is short in diamonds, we should plan to finesse twice in the suit. 

Okay, you ruff the spade, and you will try a minor suit finesse - club to the ten or diamond jack from hand.  Which do you try first - club or diamond?

Club.  It likely won't matter, but there is only one way to tackle clubs.  If we wait on diamonds, we might learn enough to play, say, for Kx onside.  So, you lead a club to the ten.  How will you proceed if East wins with the jack and returns the 7?

West
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
J
2
2
2
7
5

Two for two in losing finesses - you'll need virtually everything else friendly.

Do you win this trick or not?

West
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
J
2
2
2
7
5

It is tempting to duck this trump, since, if West has only two trumps, West will be endplayed, and have to help with your entries, or give you a sluff-and-ruff.  That, however, would be an error.  

For starters, you have plenty of entries provided clubs are splitting - the ace of trumps now, the 9 later, and a spade ruff when you exit in trumps from the table.  But, if clubs are not splitting, ducking can easily lead to a fatal club ruff.  Moreover, if you duck this trick and West can exit in trumps, you will end up short one entry.

So, you win the trump ace (queen from West).  Time to take (and hopefully win) another finesse.  Clubs or diamonds?

Clubs.  Again, if clubs are splitting, the choice won't matter.  However, if West started with a hand like, say,

West
9876
Q10
K103
K732

you can no longer make the hand.  Nothing you try will let you pick up the clubs and finesse twice in diamonds.  If West did start with four clubs, you will need to try for some other diamond position - like Kx onside.  You will have to hope that West was either 5-2-2-4 or 4-3-2-4.  

Play a club to the queen now.  If clubs split, use the 9 and a late trump entry to double finesse diamonds.  If East shows out on that club, exit in trumps, ruff the spade return, discarding a diamond from the table, to leave:

North
AQ8
A8
South
J92
96

Only one hope left - doubleton diamond king onside.  Play a diamond to the queen, cash the ace, return to the high jack to pick up clubs.

At the table, the first club finesse lost to the king, not the jack, and a trump came back:

West
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
K
2
2
2
7
A
Q
6
3
3
2
5

As before, it is clearly best to win this trump and play a minor suit.  Clubs or diamonds?

Diamonds, obviously.   You aren't going to lead a club to the eight now, and why waste an entry to play a club to the ace?  So, you try the diamond jack, covered, and won on the table.  You cash a high club next.  What do you do if both follow?

Again, easy.  Cash out the clubs.  It is doubtful anyone will help you out by ruffing in.  No matter.  Finesse against the 10 when you get the chance.

What will you do if East shows out on the second club?

West
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
K
2
2
2
7
A
Q
6
3
3
2
J
K
A
4
1
4
2
A
J
5
3
1
5
2
7

Simply exit in trumps, ruff the spade return, and discard the 8 from the table.  This will be the four-card ending:

North
Q85
Q
South
92
96

Assuming the 10 is onside, the diamonds must run - West has two clubs left, and so can't stop diamonds.  Simply lead the 2 from hand, and put in the 8 if West follows low. 

Oddly enough, if West started with a hand like 987 Q10 K1043 J732, West was squeezed by that last spade (though I can't imagine East not bidding more with seven spades over there).

This was the full hand:

West
98765
Q10
K103
J72
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
KQJ102
K75
764
K3
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
K
2
2
2
7
A
Q
6
3
3
2
J
K
A
4
1
4
2
A
3
5
7
1
5
2
Q
J
6
J
1
6
2
8
Q
9
7
3
7
2
2
3
8
10

Do you agree with West's bidding?

West
98765
Q10
K103
J72
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
KQJ102
K75
764
K3
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
K
2
2
2
7
A
Q
6
3
3
2
J
K
A
4
1
4
2
A
3
5
7
1
5
2
Q
J
6
J
1
6
2
8
Q
9
7
3
7
2
2
3
8
10

Most players, holding five-card trump support, reflexively jam the auction.  The West hand, however, is quite poor offensively - no shape, no spade honors, and the heart and diamond ten, and even the club jack, rate to contribute more to defense than offense.  This hand illustrates that perfectly - that heart ten was worth a full trick on defense, but would contribute very little to a spade contract. 

Bidding 4 would be too much, even at favorable vulnerability.  3 looks just about right to me, and, though I can see going low at these colors, I would still bid 3.

Do you agree with the defense?

No.  It became quite clear pretty early on that this hand would need quite a few finesses.  On hands like that, you should never tell declarer which ones are working.  East should have let the 10 hold. 

What would happen after that?  Who knows.  South would likely return to hand with the trump ace and lead another club.  West might well play the club jack, the card he is known to hold.  After a finesse loses, the 9 will serve as a reentry, and the contract will still make.  

It is much more interesting if West follows with the 7.  Would North try the 8, catering to KJ72 onside?  That would be fatal.

By the way, were this the full hand:

West
98765
Q10
K103
K72
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
KQJ102
K75
764
J3
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
4

East might actually set this contract by letting the 10 win!  Wouldn't that be a spectacular defense!

Is such a defense logical?

West
98765
Q10
K103
K72
North
A3
862
AQ85
AQ108
East
KQJ102
K75
764
J3
South
4
AJ943
J92
9654
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
A
10
4
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
8
3
2
3
3
2
1
4
2
10
4

Well, when the trump nine loses to the ten, East knows that South started with only five trumps, AQ9 or AJ9.  That also marks West with both minor suit kings, poorly placed for the defense.

When South trumps the second spade, the defense must score a second trump trick, and two minor suit tricks to prevail.  So, South will need to hold exactly AJ9xx in trumps.  Moreover, if South has four diamonds, the diamonds must run.  Likewise, there is no defense if South started with five clubs.

So, East can place South with a 1-5-3-4 hand, with AJ9xx in trumps.  

The defense can win a diamond trick by force if West started with KJ10, KJ9, or K109 in diamonds.  In that case, East should certainly win the club jack.  Give West any weaker diamond holding, and give South the 9, and the only hope is to duck the club and persuade South to waste entries repeating a doomed club finesse.  Even if partner holds strong diamonds, declarer will almost certainly repeat the club finesse, and the trick will come back, again, provided that South holds the 9.

Does South hold the 9?  Well, since South has four clubs and West two small clubs (along with the king), the odds are 4-2 that South was dealt that nine.  And, naturally, if East is good enough to consider ducking with the club jack, then West, holding K92, would be good enough to play the nine on the first round, to keep East from messing up!

So, yes, it is a logical defense, but not one that I would ever even consider at the table.  I ain't that good.  Is anyone?

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