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A Kingdom For a Finesse

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from a local club game, illustrates a common problem for declarer — deciding which finesse to take. The bidding leaves something to be desired, but that is the way it occurred. South’s jump to Blackwood did not show good judgment in view of his two losers in each red suit (a four-club cue-bid is recommended), but this player was inexperienced and knew of no other method to explore for slam.

6 S South
None Vul
S Q 8 5 2
H A J 9
D A Q 7
C 8 6 4


3 S
5 H
1 S
4 NT
6 S
S K 6
H K 6 5 3
D 10 8 5 2
C 9 5 3
TableS 4 3
H 8 7 4 2
D K J 9 3
C 10 7 2

Lead: D 2
S A J 10 9 7
H Q 10
D 6 4

South’s inexperience showed even more in the play. West led a diamond and declarer naturally tried a finesse with dummy’s queen — no luck. East won the king and returned a club, then declarer crossed to the diamond ace to lead the spade queen for a finesse — still no luck.

Later, after drawing trumps, declarer was obliged to try the heart finesse. Perhaps the guardian angel of bridge allowed this finesse to work, if only to boost South’s spirits for the next hand. It made little difference, since the contract was already set.

Instead of trying each finesse in the order presented, declarer should have considered the overall picture. He should decide the relative importance of each finesse, perhaps by asking himself these questions: (1) If the diamond finesse works, is the contract assured? No, the spade or heart finesse is still needed. (2) If the spade finesse works, is the contract assured? No, one of the red-suit finesses also must work. (3) If the heart finesse works, is the contract assured? Yes! Barring freak distributions, declarer can discard his diamond loser on the third round of hearts before the opponents gain the lead.

Therefore, the proper play is to win the diamond ace, lead the spade queen to the ace (leading the queen costs nothing and may tempt East to cover if he holds the king), and then lead the heart queen for a finesse. The contract is made, losing just one trump trick.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek