By Prof Tony Campbell

WHEN you are declarer, an important card play at bridge is the double finesse.

Typically, this is when you hold the ace, jack, ten and nine of a suit, where you take a finesse twice in order to capture one of the two outstanding honours.

Such a hand turned up last week in one of the Penarth-Sully online sessions

The Auction

After South and West passed, North opened the bidding with two clubs. South responded with two diamonds, a relay bid, asking North whether he had a balanced no trump hand or eight tricks in a suit. North with his twenty points responded with two no trumps. South, with 11 points knows game is on. But having four cards in spades he needed to know if four spades might be a better contract than three no trumps.

His three-club bid was five-card puppet Stayman, asking North if he had a four or five card major suit. With five hearts or spades he would bid one of these, a three-diamond response showing he had a four-card major, as yet not revealed. So, three no trumps denied either. The point count between them was thirty-one. So, a slam would be very risky, South leaving the contract in three no trumps.

The play

East was on lead and was hesitant to lead a heart, probably into declarer’s ace and queen. So, he chose to lead the jack of clubs. North paused, as he examined the hand carefully.

Assuming the diamonds were no worse than four/one, declarer can count ten certain tricks. And even if the heart finesse failed, he was bound to make two heart tricks, making eleven in all. But in pairs overtricks are vital if you want a good score.

North, as declarer, could see that there was a good chance of making three spade tricks if the king and queen were distributed between East and West, or if West held both the king and queen.

The odds were good for this. But, if East held both the king and queen of clubs, declarer would only make ten tricks, as East would continue with clubs each time he was in. Then East would make his fourth club when the finesse in hearts goes wrong for declarer.

Entries into dummy were important. So, North won the first trick with dummy’s king of clubs, and refused the heart finesse or playing diamonds initially. Rather he played the jack of spades from dummy. West rightly held up his queen, East winning the trick with his king. East again decided not to lead a heart, as he was certain from the point count that North held the ace.

So, he returned a small club, which declarer won with dummy’s queen. North then played the ten of spades from dummy, which West again refused to cover. Another spade dropped West’s queen, North winning the trick with his ace of spades.

Declarer then returned to dummy with the king of diamonds and played dummy’s last spade, the nine, discarding the jack of hearts from hand. He then played a small diamond back to his ace, and cashed the rest of his diamonds, ending with the ace of clubs and ace of hearts in hand, making twelve tricks in all – three spades, one heart, five diamonds, and three clubs. Well played for a top of 660 points.

What have we learnt?

1. With twenty points the opening two club bid is the right one. But with nineteen points you should only open this if you have a five-card suit, or several tens. Otherwise, it is better to open one of a suit.

2. Although South has eleven points, the relay of two diamonds enables him to judge what the best contract might be.

3. In duplicate pairs overtricks are vital if you want a good score. Here, the double finesse is the best percentage play. Even if the heart finesse wins, declarer can then only make eleven tricks, as he does not have sufficient entries into dummy to benefit from the alternative double finesse.


Penarth club results

Here are the results of last week from the Penarth-Sully online bridge, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. Click on Results and then the date. Wed. 12th May; 1. Irene Thomas and Carolyn Matthews (65.1%); 2. Joan Andrews and Joy Seculer (64.3%); 3. Pat James and Philip Botrill (54.0%). Fri 14th May; 1. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (68.9%); 2. Peter Millar and Tim Barsby (66.7%) 3. Jim Elder and Meryl Skipper (61.7%).

Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join. The current positions in Peter Sampson’s ladder are: 1. Angela Hudson and Rod Hudson; 2. Val Hetheridge and Sean MacDougall 3. Carolyn Matthews and Patsy Cohen. Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue. Let me know if you would like to join us.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are available online. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.