Main     Almost Bridge 7F53 by Richard Pavlicek    

The Un-Finesse

All bridge players know about the finesse, which has been around since the beginning of bridge, and even before then in the days of whist. The basic technique is quite simple — just lead from one hand, forcing an opponent to play next, and then win the trick as cheaply as possible.

Well, that was just too simple. Back in 1943 my uncle Cedric, a nuclear physicist assigned to the Manhattan Project, came across another discovery. In his Chicago laboratory he tested many card combinations and found that certain holdings defied the physical laws. An ace was sometimes a deuce; and a deuce was sometimes an ace. The shortest route to dummy was not always a straight line, but a space-time continuum. Tricks would disappear and then reappear as quantum particles. A finesse that “worked” was often a losing finesse. Card play had entered a new era.

Consider this “Deal of Infamy” which occurred in a team game in Cedric’s laboratory. (Historians say that World War II would have ended a lot sooner if Cedric had not become a bridge addict.) Both tables reached the slam in spades on the primitive auction shown. After West’s 1 H overcall, North cue-bid 2 H to force to game. South jumped to 4 S to show extra strength; North invited slam, and South accepted. (Players of today would make a negative double with the North hand, but this gadget wasn’t invented yet.)

West led the H J, won by the ace, and both declarers next led the S Q, seeing West produce the king. How sweet! At table one declarer took the ace and drew a second trump, discovering the bad break. Despite the 11 top tricks there was just no way to come to 12, and the contract failed.

Enter Cedric, who was South at table two. When he led the S Q and saw it covered, he knew that a winning finesse could mean a losing finesse, and vice versa. His laboratory analyses confirmed time and time again that honor cards were transcendental, always in flux, and never at real coordinates. This was clearly an opportunity for an “un-finesse” so he let the S K hold. In order to win the trick, he had to lose it!

6 S by South

S A 7 5 4
H Q 3 2
D A 9 8
C A 10 2
H K J 10 9 8 7
D 6 5 4
C K 9 8
TableS 8 6 3 2
H 6 5 4
D 3 2
C J 7 6 5
Lead: H JS Q J 10 9
D K Q J 10 7
C Q 4 3


1 H
All Pass

2 H
5 S

1 D
4 S
6 S

After winning the S K, West exited safely with a diamond, taken by the ace as Cedric unblocked the 10. A heart was ruffed, then the S J-10 were cashed. Dummy was entered with the D 9 to draw East’s last trump, then the diamonds were run. This was the ending before Cedric led his last diamond:

C A 10
C K 9
C J 7 6
C Q 4

On the D J West was hopelessly squeezed. If he let go the H K, dummy’s queen would be good; if he let go a club, his king would fall. Either way, Cedric had the rest. Making 6 S!

Final Thoughts

Many players have lost to singleton kings offside, but my uncle Cedric was the first to do it when the kings were onside. But then, how do we know what is really onside? Is there really an up and a down? Or is it just a matter of relativity?


© 1998 Richard Pavlicek