THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
IS IT A FINESSE OR UP-TO-HONORS?
Elvis Stojko, a Canadian figure skater who won three world championships, said, “I had the strength and the finesse there and put it all together.”
Bridge declarers (and sometimes defenders) with high-card strength often put together tricks with finesses. There is rarely a deal without at least one finesse. However, occasionally a suit combination comes along that looks like a finesse, but isn’t.
Which applies in this deal — finesse or look-alike non-finesse?
South is in three no-trump. West leads the heart queen. What should declarer do? Would the best line change if South’s clubs were Q-J-9-2?
When in no-trump, always start by counting your top tricks, your instant winners. Here South has seven: four spades, two hearts and one club. So, if he can rake in three club tricks, he will make his contract.
Any declarer who thinks that club suit is a finessing combination will take the first trick with his heart king (he does not want to risk a diamond shift) and run the club queen. However, when East turns up with four clubs, three no-trump must fail.
Instead, South should play a low club to dummy’s ace and return a club toward his queen-jack. East will probably play low. Then declarer, after winning with his club queen, returns to dummy with a spade and leads another club to gain that third club trick.
Interestingly, that is still the right approach even with ace-fourth opposite queen-jack-nine-fourth. Running the queen loses when East has a singleton king.
Lead toward the hand with the two honors.