Main     Lesson 4A by Richard Pavlicek    

Card Combinations

As declarer you must know how to handle various card combinations. This lesson explains the proper techniques. It is assumed that declarer has adequate entries to either hand, there is no need to prevent a specific opponent from gaining the lead, and the enemy hands are unknown.

In cases where declarer has entry problems, special considerations or knowledge about the enemy hands, these rules are only guidelines — it may be necessary to invent a different play to your advantage.

Missing the Jack

Finesse with 6 cards or fewer.

In most cases you will have 7 or more cards, so you should play to drop a jack; however, the order in which you cash the ace, king and queen is often important. Arrange your plays so you will be able to finesse if an opponent shows out.

1.
A Q 9 5 4
Table
K 10 3 2

Cash the ace (or queen) first. If either opponent shows out, you can finesse the other opponent for the jack.

2.
A Q 9 5 4
Table
K 8 3 2

Cash the king first. The only 4-0 break you can cope with is if West has four, and you must lead the king to discover this.

3.
A Q 10 4
Table
K 3 2

Cash the ace (or queen) then the king. Unless East shows out giving you a proven finesse, you will next win the queen.

4.
A Q 10 3
Table
K 2

Cash the king then finesse the 10. Note: On most deals there is some other suit to work on before trying this finesse.

TopMain

Missing the Queen

Finesse with 8 cards or fewer.

Before finessing for a queen, first cash the ace or king if this does not restrict your ability to finesse — you might drop a singleton queen.

5.
A J 5 4
Table
K 3 2

Cash the king then finesse the jack.

6.
A K J 10 5
Table
4 3 2

Cash the king (or ace) then return to your hand in another suit to finesse the jack.

7.
A K J 10 5
Table
3 2

Take a first-round finesse. If you were to cash the ace or king first, you would not be able to finesse twice — that is, you could not capture Q-x-x-x in the West hand.

8.
A K 5 4
Table
J 9 3 2

Cash the ace and king. There is no simple finesse available so your best chance is to drop the queen.

9.
A J 9 7 6
Table
K 5 4 3 2

Cash the king first. You do not expect to finesse, but East might show out to reveal a proven finesse against West.

10.
10 4 3
Table
A K J 8 2

Cash the ace, cross to dummy in another suit then lead the 10. This allows you to pick up Q-9-x-x in East — he must cover with the queen, then West will show out to reveal a guaranteed finesse for the nine.

11.
K 9 4
Table
A J 10 3 2

You could finesse either way. With no clue it is better to cash the king and finesse against East. This allows you to capture Q-x-x-x East or a singleton queen West.

TopMain

Missing the King

Finesse with 10 cards or fewer.

When finessing for a king, do not lead an unsupported honor unless you will benefit if the next player covers with the king.

12.
A Q 6 5 4
Table
J 3 2

Do not lead the jack. Lead the two and finesse the queen; if it wins, cash the ace. Your only chance to avoid a loser is to find West with K-x.

13.
A Q J 4
Table
10 3 2

Do not lead the 10. Lead the two and finesse the jack (or queen); if it wins, later lead the three and finesse the queen.

14.
A J 10 3
Table
Q 9 2

Here you could afford to lead the queen (if covered you have four tricks). But it is better technique to lead the nine first. This allows you to keep the lead in your hand in case West refuses to cover with the king.

15.
A J 9 8 3
Table
Q 2

Lead the queen. If it loses to the king, cash the ace and jack hoping to drop the 10. If the queen is covered, win the ace; return to your hand in a different suit and finesse the nine.

If a trick must always be lost, it is usually best to cash the ace.

16.
Q J 6 5 4
Table
A 3 2

First cash the ace then lead up to the Q-J (twice if necessary). It is impossible to run the whole suit, so your goal is to maximize the chance to win four tricks.

TopMain

Missing Queen-Jack

Finesse twice with 7 cards or fewer; finesse once with 8 cards.

17.
A K 10 9 4
Table
3 2

Finesse the 10. If it loses, finesse the nine next.

18.
A K 10 9 5
Table
4 3 2

Finesse the 10. If it loses, cash the ace; if both follow, the rest are good.

If the ace and king are in different hands, cash one top card before taking any finesse.

19.
A 10 9 4
Table
K 3 2

Cash the king then finesse the 10. If it loses, finesse the nine next.

TopMain

Missing King-Queen

Finesse twice with any length.

20.
A J 10 5
Table
4 3 2

Finesse the jack. If it loses, finesse the 10 next time.

21.
A J 10 9 6
Table
5 4 3 2

With nine cards it is still best to take two finesses. Exception: If this is your trump suit and an enemy ruff is imminent, it is usually wise to win the ace first (then the jack) to draw trumps quicker.

22.
A 10 6 5
Table
J 4 3 2

Finesse the 10. If it loses, cash the ace; there is no second finesse available.

23.
A J 9 5
Table
4 3 2

Finesse the nine first, then finesse the jack. You are hoping West holds K-10 or Q-10, which is a much better chance than hoping West has the K-Q.

TopMain

Missing King-Jack

If the ace and queen are in the same hand: Finesse for the king and jack with 8 cards or fewer. Finesse only for the king with 9 or 10 cards.

24.
A Q 10 5
Table
4 3 2

Finesse the 10. If it loses to the jack, finesse the queen next.

25.
A Q 9 6 5
Table
4 3 2

Finesse the nine; later finesse the queen. Note that you always must lose at least one trick, even with the king onside.

26.
A Q 10 7 6
Table
5 4 3 2

Finesse the queen. If it loses to the king, cash the ace next.

If the ace and queen are in different hands: Cash the ace then finesse for the jack if possible, else lead up to the queen.

27.
A 5 4
Table
Q 10 3 2

Cash the ace then lead the four. If no honor appears, finesse the 10. If this loses to the jack, lead up to the queen next.

28.
A 10 6 5
Table
Q 4 3 2

Cash the ace then lead up to the queen.

Exception: Holding 8 cards or fewer including the 10, nine and eight, do not cash the ace first. It is better to finesse twice.

29.
A 10 9 8
Table
Q 4 3 2

Lead the two and finesse the 10. If this loses to the jack, finesse for the king next. Note that if either hand held another card, the proper play is to cash the ace first.

TopMain

Missing the Ace

Lead toward your honors.

30.
K Q 9 5
Table
4 3 2

Lead up to the king. If it wins, later lead up to the queen.

31.
9 6 5 4
Table
Q J 3 2

Lead up to the queen. Later lead toward the jack.

If your two highest cards are not touching, try to finesse against the in-between card (or cards).

32.
Q 10 8 5 4
Table
3 2

Lead toward the Q-10 and finesse the 10. Hopefully this will lose to the ace or king; next time lead toward the queen.

33.
K 10 9 6
Table
5 4 3 2

Finesse the ten; later finesse the nine. This gains if West has either the jack or the queen (or both).

With equal honors in each hand, lead to the shorter hand first.

34.
Q 5 4
Table
K 10 3 2

Lead up to the queen. Whether it wins or loses, next time lead toward the K-10 and finesse the 10.

35.
J 4 3
Table
Q 9 8 2

Lead up to the jack. Whether it wins or loses, next time finesse the nine.

36.
K 7
Table
Q 6 5 4 3 2

Lead up to the king. If it wins you know that West has the ace, so it would be futile to play the queen next — you should duck the second round hoping the ace falls.

TopMain

© 2013 Richard Pavlicek