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Ready Freddy

Luke recovered quickly from his opening-lead accident, and after a week of prosthetics orientation we were back on track with our planned trip to Mt. Rushmore. I set up a team match against the Dakota Aces, a group of bridge pros sponsored by Ira Cornbucks, for $100 an IMP. On the surface they might be considered favorites, but we were packin’ a bigger ace, with Ready Freddy on our team. “No finesse too tall” is his trademark, and it set the tone of the match on the first board as both teams bid this optimistic game:

3 NT South S A 2
H 7 5 4 2
D A 4 3
C Q 9 8 7
None Vul

West

Pass
Pass


North
Pass
2 C
3 NT


East
Pass
Pass
All Pass


South
1 NT
2 D
S J 10 9 7 3
H K J 9
D Q 7 5
C J 2
Table S 8 6 5 4
H A 10 8
D 10 6 2
C K 10 3
Lead: S J S K Q
H Q 6 3
D K J 9 8
C A 6 5 4

At my table Luke led the S J, taken by the king, and declarer played ace and a club to my king. A spade return left declarer in dire straits, so he tried the diamond finesse hoping to salvage something. When this lost he was down five. I wanted to point out that 3 NT was still made — just by the wrong side — but held it back lest the postmortem find my body in the Black Hills.

At the other table Ready Freddy was declarer, so the contract was a cinch. After the same lead, Freddy began with a club to the nine, then after a spade back led the club queen to bring in the suit. After that it was child’s play to run diamonds by starting the jack. Easy game, and the beginning of a 166-26 rout for a cool 14 grand apiece, albeit pocket change for Cornbucks.

Many people have questioned Freddy’s uncanny card-reading ability, but I have no qualms. After all, it’s not how you play the game, but how much you can rake. By hook or by crook, all tricks count the same. Luke and I urged Freddy to teach us his knack, but after one look at Luke he declined, “Sorry, it involves digital periscopics, and it won’t work with a mechanical arm.”

The techniques described are commonly called a “backward finesse” (diamonds) and an “intrafinesse” (clubs). While successful on the layout, these plays are almost always anti-percentage, unless declarer expects a normal finesse to fail from the bidding or defense — or a periscope, as the case may be. Nonetheless, they enliven the postmortem, and this month will provide a puzzle:

What are the weakest suit holdings to allow a backward finesse and an intrafinesse?

Clarification: While the techniques are not strictly defined, the essence of each must be retained, and it must be the only maneuver in the suit layout to win the most tricks, which may be as few as one. For the sake of uniformity, South must lead first. After that, either North or South must lead; i.e., there are no endplays or help from the opponents. If there is any ambiguity, I will be the sole judge as to what constitutes a backward finesse and an intrafinesse.

Anyone who wishes may submit a solution using the form below, multiple times if desired but only the last one counts. Entries close July 31 at midnight GMT. On August 2, the best solutions will be shown here, and the top solvers listed. Solutions will be ranked by the total N-S HCP (fewer is better). Ties will be broken by the sum of all N-S card ranks (lower is better) and lastly by the date/time of submission.

Solution

Backward
finesse
D
 
Notrump
South leads
Intrafinesse C
 
D  Table East gets
the rest
C  Table East gets
the rest
 
D
   
C

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© 2017 Richard Pavlicek