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Play, Defence even Bid for Newer Players

The Finesse That Cannot Fail.

Everyone is taught the art of finessing at a very early stage of their bridge career. Playing a small card towards AQ gives you a 50% chance of success, even if you feel that more than half of your finesses do fail! Players forget the successful ones. There is a kind of finesse which cannot fail. Let’s look at a recent example.

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

 

How would you play the hand on the lead of the Spade-small7 from West?

South was delighted that their partner had heart support. Notice that  after a 1Spade-small opening bid, 2Heart-small promises at least 5 hearts thus enabling North to support with just 3.The South hand is perfect for whatever form of Blackwood a pair plays. Using simple responses, North showed one ace enabling South to bid 6Heart-small with a fair degree of optimism.

Partner had put down an attractive looking dummy…. and the defence had not led a diamond. One really important rule in bridge (of course all rules including this one should very occasionally be broken!) is that you should never endanger your contract in order to try and make an overtrick. Thus, it would be very dangerous to take a finesse of the spade at trick 1 and thus make an overtrick if West held the Spade-smallK but go down if East held it. East would surely switch to a diamond if they did not hold the ace themselves.  tears.png

With only one spade in your hand, you do not need to finesse. Up with the ace. You are absolutely guaranteed 12 tricks if you ruff two clubs in dummy. (remember, looking at your hand, you have two losing clubs. If you can ruff cards in dummy, do so before you draw trumps.)

However, you can do even better by taking what is called a ruffing finesse. At trick 2, play the Spade-smallQ and wait to see what East does. If East does not put up the king or does not hold the king, you throw your little diamond on that card. Where East does play the king, ruff with Heart-small8 (just in case West had led a singleton spade) and now you have at least 2 discards available on the Spade-smallJ10 in dummy.

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

 

Say East played the king. You ruff and can draw all the trumps if they break 2-1 though if one defender had all 3 hearts, it would be safer to draw all the trumps finishing in dummy and discard 2 maybe 3 of your minor suit loses on spades. You must make 12 tricks and if spades break 4-3, you make all 13.  happiness.png

A ruffing finesse enables you to discard one loser and at the same time sets up another high card in the suit for a second discard. To take one, you need at least a sequence of two high honours (e.g. KQ or as here QJ when the ace had been played) opposiite a void.

On the above hand, a first round spade finesse was an extremely dangerous play which deserved to fail. Yet, the Spade-smallQ on the second round was 100% safe and would bring a declarer an overtrick in their excellent slam contract. Remember the “ruffing finesse”, a very useful technique.

Richard Solomon

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