HW5: The Finesse The Finesse We will now take a brief break from learning about bidding and look at a card-play technique called the finesse. A finesse is a way to win tricks with cards that are not the highest out in their suits. Let‟s look at the card position shown on the left. The top row AQ of cards represents the dummy‟s holding in a particular suit. The bottom row represents declarer‟s holding in the same suit. The 96 question we are trying to answer is, “What is the best way to play this suit to win the greatest number of tricks?” For the purposes of this and further card- position discussions, we will assume that we have unlimited entries (high cards in other suits we can use to get the lead into whichever hand we want) to either hand. One way to play the above suit would be to play the Ace and then the Q. We will be able to win two tricks in the suit whenever the King falls under the Ace. However, this isn‟t very likely to occur. The King would have to be singleton in an opponent‟s hand for this to realistically occur. Can we find a better way to play the suit? What if, instead, we play the 9 or 6 out of declarer‟s hand first. If LHO (left-hand opponent) plays the King, we can win the Ace and then win the Queen for two tricks. If LHO plays any other card, what should we play? If we play the Ace, we will win two tricks in the suit whenever RHO (right hand opponent) has the singleton King. If we play the Queen, we will win two tricks in the suit whenever LHO has the King. The former would require LHO to have started with an 8-card suit missing the King, and the latter requires LHO to have started with any number of cards including the King. The chance of the former occurring is very close to 0%. The chance of the latter occurring is around 50%. The reason for this is that the King is in one opponent‟s hand or the other, with roughly equal chance. Since LHO has already played to this trick, we can play the Queen and win the trick any time LHO has the King. If RHO has the King, there is no way we can win two tricks in the suit unless RHO leads the suit for us. The play of low- to-the-Queen is called „finessing the Queen‟ or „finessing against the King.‟ We are using a non-high card to win or promote a trick. When finessing, it is generally right to play a small card towards the card with which we are hoping to win a trick. Finesses are possible with many different card positions. Can you identify the finesse(s) in each of the following situations? (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) K4 A97 AJ7 KJ4 AJT KQ3 83 Q63 865 876 543 876 (1) and (2) are simple finessing positions. In (1), it is right to lead small to the King. If LHO has the Ace, the King will win. If RHO has the Ace, we cannot win any tricks. Thus, we are said to have one-half trick in this suit. In (2), it is right to cash the Ace and then lead small to the Queen. Cashing the Ace has the effect of reducing the position to (1). If RHO has the King or LHO has the singleton King, we will win two tricks in the suit. If not, we will win one trick in the suit. Thus, we have one and a half tricks. (3) is called a double finessing position. The right way to play the suit is to play small to the Jack. This is a finesse against both the King and the Queen. We have a 25% chance of winning two tricks. If LHO holds both the King and Queen, the Jack will win. Otherwise, we can only win one trick in the suit. (4) is also best played as a double finesse, although it is slightly different than (3). The right play is small to the Jack, followed by small to the King. If LHO has the Ace and Queen, we will win two tricks in the suit. If RHO has the Ace and Queen, we will win no tricks in the suit. If the Ace and Queen are in different hands, we will win one trick in the suit. Thus we have, on average, one trick in the suit. Playing small to the King and then small to the Jack is almost as good a play as small to the Jack followed by small to the King. We will win one trick in the suit whenever LHO holds the Ace and Queen, or whenever the Ace and Queen are in different hands. We still cannot win any tricks in the suit RHO holds both the Ace and Queen. However, we have no chance of winning two tricks in the suit. If LHO holds the Ace and Queen, then the King will win the first round, but the Ace and Queen will win the second and third rounds, rendering the Jack useless. Thus, small to the Jack initially is the best play. (5) and (6) are called repeated finessing positions. In (5), the best play is small to the Jack or Ten, followed by small to the other one. This play will yield two tricks in the suit whenever RHO does not hold both the King and Queen, and it will yield one trick in the suit otherwise. Thus, we have one and three-quarters tricks in the suit. In (6), the right play is small to the King, followed by small to the Queen (if the King wins). This play will give us two tricks in the suit whenever LHO holds the Ace and one trick in the suit whenever RHO holds the Ace. Thus we have one and a half tricks in the suit. There are finessing positions where it is right to lead the card with which we are hoping to win the trick. These are called promotion finesses. Look at the following positions: (1) (2) In the two positions in the left, it is right to lead a card in A65 K72 the honor sequence in declarer‟s hand. In (1), if LHO plays the King, we can win the Ace and cash the remaining QJT JT9 tricks in the suit. If LHO plays low, we can play low from dummy. If LHO holds the King, the honor from declarer‟s hand will win the trick, and we can repeat the process. If RHO wins with the King, we could never win more than two tricks in the suit. In (2), we lead the Jack, Ten, or Nine. If LHO plays the Queen, we cover with the King. The Ace will win a trick at some point, but we have the other two tricks in the suit. If LHO plays low or plays the Ace, we play low, hoping LHO holds the Queen. If this is the case, we can win two tricks in the suit by repeating the promotion finesse. There are countless other finessing positions in bridge. In the next class, you will need to be able to recognize and execute finesses in order to make your contracts.
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