The Irish Times - - Bulletin Page - by Steve Becker

Open­ing lead — king of spades.

There is noth­ing un­usual about de­clarer be­ing in a con­tract where the out­come de­pends upon the suc­cess of a fi­nesse. It hap­pens all the time.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, a fi­nesse has only a 50-50 chance of win­ning. For this rea­son, de­clarer should try to avoid the fi­nesse if it is pos­si­ble to sub­sti­tute for it any other ap­proach that would raise the chance of suc­cess beyond 50 per­cent.

Con­sider this case where South is in four hearts and West leads the K-A of spades, de­clarer trump­ing the sec­ond one. The prob­lem is to avoid the loss of a di­a­mond and two clubs. The di­a­mond loser can’t be avoided, so the is­sue nar­rows down to elim­i­nat­ing one of the club losers.

The sim­ple so­lu­tion is to bank ev­ery­thing on East’s hav­ing the king of clubs, and take a straight­for­ward fi­nesse against it. But this is only an even-money shot, and de­clarer should want to do bet­ter than that. There are two other ways to try to make the con­tract, and it costs noth­ing to in­ves­ti­gate both of them be­fore at­tempt­ing the club fi­nesse.

First, West may have the ace of di­a­monds. If he does, South can lead twice to­ward dummy’s K-Q and es­tab­lish a high card on which to dis­card a club. A di­a­mond is there­fore led at trick three. East takes the king with the ace, and that chance goes down the drain.

De­clarer ruffs East’s spade re­turn and draws two rounds of trump, end­ing in dummy. A club is led, and when East plays low, South in­serts the nine, forc­ing West’s king. De­clarer’s sec­ond chance — that East was dealt the J-10 of clubs — thus comes through, and the con­tract is home.

Ob­serve that it does East no good to split his J-10 when the first club is led from dummy. If he does, the queen is played, los­ing to the king, but South later picks up East’s re­main­ing club honor by lead­ing a club to­ward the A-9 and fi­ness­ing if East fol­lows low.

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