Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
A popular bumper sticker a few years ago read: “BRIDGE PLAYERS DO IT WITH FINESSE” and there is no doubt that the finesse often plays a very important role in our wonderful game. Figuring out (or even guessing) which opponent is more likely to hold a particular card and then rendering that card powerless is an ongoing and crucial part of declarer play.
As players become more experienced they realise that finessing situations present themselves much more frequently than they had thought. Sometimes more than one finesse will be available in the same hand and the declarer has to decide which, if any, should be taken, and if more than one, in what order.
Such was the case with this month’s deal. South picked up a very good hand containing 24 high card points and correctly opened proceedings with the strongest bid available, 2 Clubs. North responded 2 Diamonds, a ‘waiting’ bid to hear more from the opener. South now bid 2 Hearts to show at least a five-card suit and North, holding 5 hearts and a decent spade suit, raised this to the three level. In this sequence, a raise to 3 hearts shows a better hand than an immediate jump to game, which North would have employed holding the same hand minus the Ace of Spades.
South now bid 4 Clubs, a cue-bid showing first round control and North responded in kind with 4 Spades to show the Ace or a void in Spades. Now South placed the contract in a small slam by bidding 6 Hearts.
West led the Heart 6, not wanting to lead away from an honor against a slam. Declarer could see 2 possible losers, one each in Spades and Diamonds. South won the opening lead in hand and promptly pulled the opponents’ remaining trump, ending in dummy with the 10 of Hearts. Now declarer called for a Diamond and when East followed low, put in the Queen which lost to the King. West got out with a Diamond to declarer’s Ace.
Now declarer played a small Spade towards the dummy and put in the Queen, which held the trick. Declarer’s only hope now was that West held a doubleton Spade so he tried cashing the Ace but when the King failed to appear, the contract was doomed.
In the post mortem it was seen that South could having increased his chances of making the slam if he had taken the Spade finesse before the Diamond one. When the Spade Queen held the trick, declarer could have cashed the Ace and conceded a Spade trick, watching carefully as each opponent followed to all three rounds. Now dummy’s lowly Spade 6 would have been good and declarer could have pitched the Diamond Queen as that finesse was now unnecessary.
If the opponents’ Spades had not been divided evenly, or the spade king was offside, declarer could have fallen back on the Diamond finesse in an attempt to make the contract. But taking the Spade finesse first greatly improved the chances for success.
So the next time you have a choice of finesses to take, see if one gives you better odds than the other – it can pay big dividends.