By Prof Tony Campbell

TAKING a finesse is one of the most important card plays in your bridge armoury.

A finesse is defined as a card play where a player, typically declarer, can make an extra trick because of the position of one or more of the cards. For example, suppose declarer as East holds the ace and queen of spades, as here. If the king is held by North, East’s queen will make if a spade is played from dummy towards declarer’s hand.

There are many types of finesse. These include the direct or simple finesse, the indirect finesse, the double finesse, and the ruffing finesse. Here is a hand I played at our club last year where there were two types of finesse, only one of which was needed to make the contract for sure. And there was also a favourable position of the ace of diamonds.

The Auction

After East’s opening bid of one spade, West did not have enough points to jump to three spades, so only responded with two spades. But after East showed 15-17 points by bidding two no trumps in response, West was happy to jump to the game of four spades, having a maximum for his original two spade bid.

The play

South began with the queen of diamonds, which turned out to be handy for declarer as it made his king secure. North won the first trick with the ace and played the ten of hearts at trick two knowing that declarer must hold the king of diamonds. Declarer paused as he had to take care with entries to dummy and his own hand if he was to be able to take the necessary finesses. The obvious first finesse was in trumps, spades.

So, he took the ten of hearts with dummy’s king. Declarer had the ace, queen and nine of spades in his own hand, and the jack and ten in dummy. If North had the king, he could catch it using a finesse by playing first the jack of spades, and then the ten if North did not cover the jack. As it was North held up his king when East played the jack of spades at trick three. However, North’s king of spades was doomed, as he had to play it when East played a third spade from dummy.

East was able to overtake the king with his ace. So far so good. Being in his hand, East was now able to try the double finesse in clubs. A double finesse occurs when there are two honours out against you in a particular suit. Here, if the king and queen of clubs were in different hands declarer would only lose one trick in this suit if he played the finesse twice. There were four possibilities. First, North and South could hold one of the honours each, either the king or queen. Alternatively, both the king and queen could be held in one hand, either by North or South. If North held both then there was no hope, declarer must lose two club tricks. But if South held both the king and queen, declarer could catch one of them. So, the chance of making three tricks in clubs was 75%. By finessing the clubs twice declarer could catch one of the honours.

Therefore, East played the jack of clubs. South held off, and the trick was won by North’s queen. He returned a small heart, which was won by East’s ace. The ten of clubs was then played by East, and South was caught. He decided to hold off again, but his king of clubs was doomed. He had to play this at the next trick, the king being overtaken by dummy’s ace. This left declarer with two making clubs in dummy. On the fourth club, declarer discarded a diamond from his hand and claimed the rest of the tricks - the queen of hearts, the king of diamonds, and a trump, East making eleven tricks in total – four spades, three hearts, one diamond, and three clubs for a score of 650. Well bid and well played.

What have we learnt?

1. Always keep your eye open for a simple or double finesse and think about the possible position of the appropriate high cards in the opponents’ hands.

2. Make sure you keep the necessary entries in your hand and dummy’s, so that you can execute the finesses available to you, particularly if you want to take a double finesse, as here.

3. The initial two spade response by West could have been quite weak. But with sixteen points it was worth another bid by East in case his partner had a maximum for his bid, as here.

Club news

We have now had three zooms with our improvers group, after the email from a regular Penarth Times reader. She asked if I could help her group develop their bridge skills. We discuss opening bids, response bids, leads, how to play the hand as declarer, and how to defend against declarer. Let me know if you would like to join us. It is a lot of fun. This week it will be that dreaded play – the finesse! How many types can you name? There are at least ten! Peter Sampson’s ladder competition continues to be a huge success, continuing for 29 weeks with 24 competing pairs. Current leaders are Angela and Rod Hudson, followed by Peter Millar and Mick Green, with Angela Hudson and Carolyn Matthews in third place, and Peter Sampson and Ann Simpson fourth.

Further information

If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me, Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up!