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Free Finesses

Happiness is getting a “free finesse” on the opening lead. Or is it? How would you play to make each of these contracts? (Do not be concerned about overtricks.)

1. 3 NT by South

S J 10 2
H K 2
D K 10 9 8 6 4
C 4 3
Lead: S 6TableEast plays S 5
S A K 9 4
H Q J 4
C A K 6 2


What a lucky lead! A free finesse into your waiting jaws. Yet, if you accept that finesse, you will be defeated. You must preserve a sure entry to dummy’s long diamonds.

Play the S 2 from dummy and win the king. Lead the D Q which holds, then the D J and overtake with the king to continue diamonds until the ace is taken. Assuming a club return (best), win the king and lead the H Q which must hold (else the H K is an entry). Next lead a low spade to concede a trick to the S Q and create an entry to dummy.

West held:

S Q-8-7-6-3 H 10-8-3 D 7-2 C Q-7-5

2. 4 S by South

S A J 10 9
H J 4
D 8
C A J 10 5 4 3
Lead: C 9TableTrumps split 3-1
S K Q 8 7 6
H 7 6
D K 7 6 4
C K 2


How sweet! The lead gives you a free finesse for the C Q simply by playing the 10 (or jack). Beware! That lead has “singleton” written all over it. If you cover in dummy, East will play low and the club suit will be blocked, leaving you no way to succeed. Try it and you will see.

The solution is to play low from dummy and win the king. Draw trumps in three rounds, then lead a club to the ace. When West shows out you have a guaranteed ruffing finesse, and the club suit is easily established.

West held:

S 5-4-3 H K-10-9-3-2 D A-J-9-3 C 9

3. 6 NT by South

S A K Q 5 2
H K 3
D 3 2
C A K 6 3
Lead: H 10Table
S 4 3
H A J 5
D A Q J 10 9
C J 4 2


Again you are blessed with a free finesse but must refuse it, this time to preserve a key entry to your hand. If you accept the finesse, East will play the queen; then when you work on diamonds, West will hold up his king and your hand will be dead. Don’t accept the Trojan horse!

Win the H K and take a diamond finesse which wins (West is tricky). Cross to dummy with a spade and repeat the diamond finesse, which loses. Now you have three chances to succeed — C Q falling, spades 3-3 or the heart finesse.

West held:

S J-9-8-7 H 10-9-8-4 D K-7-4 C 10-7


© 2013 Richard Pavlicek