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What are my alternatives

There is an undoubted temptation to “over-finesse”. Leading (say) to an ace-queen, and seeing whether or not the queen loses to the king, like tossing a coin and betting whether it will turn heads, is a gamble with an undoubted lure. However a failing finesse, by its very nature, involves losing the lead. If you cannot afford this to happen, and have alternative options, then those other approaches should be sought.

South Deals
E-W Vul
A 6 5 3
A K J 4
9 7
A K 7
Q 9 7
9 7 6
K Q 10 3 2
10 8
W   E
10 8
10 8 5 3
J 8 5
J 9 4 2
K J 4 2
Q 2
A 6 4
Q 6 5 3
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 2 1 Pass 2 
Pass 6 2 All pass  
  1. Stayman - a request for four-card
  2. Fantastic controls, and close to the 33
    point-guideline for a slam slam.

What happened
Declarer won West’s  K lead with  A, and knew the correct odds to avoid losing to  Q; missing five cards including the queen it was to finesse. He crossed to  A, then led back  3 to  J. Disappointment - West won  Q, and promptly cashed  Q. Down one.

What should have happened
Although the correct odds to avoid a trump loser are to lead to  A then finesse  J, the consequences of losing the finesse are fatal (a diamond is cashed). Declarer should have tried to dispose of the diamonds from one hand or the other before potentially losing the lead.

After winning  A, declarer should cash  AK, expecting the most likely result that four low spades but no  Q will appear [ Q rates to be in the three-card length as opposed to being in the doubleton (3 : 2)]. Leaving  Q out, he must concentrate on discarding the diamonds from one hand. This will be possible in clubs, should the suit split 3-3 (against the odds); possible in hearts if the player with  Q has more than two of the seven missing cards (a big favourite).

After taking  AK, declarer cashes  Q, then leads over to  AKJ. One diamond from hand goes on the third heart, the other goes on the fourth heat. Note that West ruffs this fourth heart, but it’s too late, as both your diamonds have gone. 12 tricks and slam made.

If you remember just one thing...
Do not rush to finesse, if the consequences of a losing finesse are fatal.

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