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To finesse or not to finesse?

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Updated: October 12, 2012 6:09AM



Rex Todhunter Stout, a writer of detective fiction who created Nero Wolfe, said, “To read of a detective’s daring finesse or ingenious stratagem is a rare joy.”

At the bridge table, a finesse might be daring, or an ingenious stratagem, or a no-cost try for an extra trick, or an out-and-out blunder.

In this deal, should South be taking any finesses in three no-trump? West leads the heart five: three, jack, king. On another subject, if you had been South, would your response to one club have been one diamond or one spade?

I agree with one diamond when you have game-forcing values. Skip a minor to show a major with a weak hand or when the major is much stronger than the diamonds.

South had eight top tricks: two spades, one heart (given trick one), four diamonds and one club. He was tempted to take the club finesse at trick two. If it had won, he would have collected overtricks. But he paused to ask what would happen if that finesse lost. East would have returned a heart through the queen-nine and the defenders would have taken four or five tricks in that suit to defeat the contract. Was there something better?

Yes. If East had at least one spade honor, the contract was guaranteed. South played a diamond to dummy’s king and ran the spade nine. West won with his queen and ingeniously shifted to a club, but declarer won with dummy’s ace and finessed the spade eight, ending with nine tricks: three spades, one heart, four diamonds and one club.



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