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Two or more “right” ways

We have covered some key finessing pointers:

  • (1) Lead from the opposite hand to the card(s) you are trying to promote.
  • (2) Finesse first against the lower of two missing honours.
  • (3) Finesse versus “drop”.
  • (4) Retain the finesse position.
  • (5) Which two-way finesse positions to release.

These general principles will stand you in good stead - most of the time. However the handling of the suit should be taken in the context of the whole deal, and not in isolation.
Take AKQ1032 facing 54. The jack is likely to fall in three rounds, so you bang out the AKQ - right?
Not necessarily - take this deal.

South Deals
Both Vul
J 5
J 6 3
8 7
A K Q 10 5 3
Q 3
Q 7
K J 9 3 2
J 9 7 6
W   E
K 9 8 7 6
K 10 5 4 2
10 5
A 10 4 2
A 9 8
A Q 6 4
4 2
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 3 NT1 All pass  
  1. Clear-cut. The clubs should provide six
    tricks - only three more needed for the
    notrump game.

What happened
Declaring 3 NT, South was the beneficiary of  3 lead to East’s  10. Winning  Q, he crossed to  Q and cashed  A. Dismayed at East discarding, he cashed  K and gave West  J, but had no way back to dummy. Winning West’s  K return with  A, all he could do was cash the two major-suit aces and retire. Down two.

What should have happened
With four top tricks outside clubs ( Q on the lead, plus  A,  A and  A), declarer only needs five tricks from clubs. He can afford to lose one, in the interest in enhancing his chances of making five. There are two approaches, both with the similar principle of being prepared to lose the first round:

(A) Finesse dummy’s ten on the first round. This ensures five club tricks on any 4-1 (or 3-2) split.

(B) Duck the first round completely. This wins five tricks even if East is void (you now have a marked finesse against West’s guarded  J). However you are giving away a cheap trick (albeit an overtrick) all the time, and only very rarely gaining the contract.

Win  Q, and, adopting Line (A) above, play to  10. When this wins, follow with

 AKQ (felling West’s  J), then  53 and the three sidesuit aces. In deliberately reducing your chances of making 10 tricks to increase your chances of making nine, you wind up with 10.

If you remember just one thing...
How many tricks you need from a suit may alter how you play it.

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