If any of this is unclear, go back and watch Module 6.3 again.
We saw in the video how a basic finesse works - and how you can make more tricks by thinking about the position of the opponents’ high cards. Here are some additional points about finessing to think about. You will figure out most of this through experience and there is no need to grasp the concepts below in the earlier stages of learning the game. It’s just there to help in case you are really keen to progress quickly.
When should you take a finesse and when should you hope that the opponents’ high cards will fall under your higher cards? Of course your other cards won’t always be positioned in a way that allows you to take a finesse but when you can, there are some guidelines that will help you to decide, depending on which honour card you are missing and how many cards you hold in the suit.
You have eight cards in both suits, and in both cases you will win the rest of the tricks in the suit once your opponents have won their ace, but the hearts are a much better suit to play. Why? Once the ace is gone you will be able to win five tricks in the dummy because you still have five cards left in the suit. In spades, because you have four cards in each hand, once you have played one from each hand to drive out the ace, you will only be able to win three tricks. You can see how having the extra length in one hand makes the suit more valuable.
When you are planning to set up a long suit, be sure that you can get back to the hand that contains it to play your winners. This is something most bridge players learn the hard way - by making mistakes. Sometimes this means thinking about whether you have a winner in another suit that will let you get the lead back in the right hand and sometimes it’s about the order in which you play the cards from your long suit. Look at this example:
If you are missing the ace, we saw that it is better to lead a small card towards the king in the hope that the ace is ‘sitting under’ - that is, in the hand that plays before the king. Now if the player with the ace plays it, you can play a small card and keep your king to win on the next round. So in effect you are always going to take a finesse against the ace.
If you are missing the king, and can take a finesse then you should pretty much always do so. In the rare situation where you hold eleven cards in the suit between your hand and dummy then you should play the ace, hoping that the remaining two cards in the suit are split 1-1 and the king will fall.
If you are missing the queen and can take a finesse then you should do so unless you have more than eight cards in the suit between your hand and dummy. Bridge players use the phrase “eight ever, nine never” to help them remember this. Once you hold at least nine cards between your hands it is statistically more likely that the queen will fall under the ace and king so you should not take the finesse against the queen.
In the video we looked at taking finesses by leading small cards towards your honour holdings. It makes sense, though, to take a slightly different approach when you have two or more ‘touching’ honour cards in one hand and the potential for a finesse. Look at this suit:
|North||♠ J T 6 3|
|♠ A K 5 4|
Again, you are missing a high card - the queen - and again, it can be trapped by your cards if it’s in the hand under the ace and king. Because you have at least two touching honour cards - the jack and ten, you should start by playing the jack, hoping that East has the queen. Just like in the video there is nothing East can do to save their queen. If they play it on top of your jack, you will win with the ace or king from south and now that the queen is gone North’s ten will win a trick. If East plays a small card, then you play a small card from South. Your jack holds the trick and the lead is still in dummy so you can take the finesse again straight away by playing the ten.
Notice that there is no point starting with a high card if you don’t hold the one below it in either your hand or dummy. This is a common error amongst inexperienced players. Look at this suit:
|North||♠ Q 6 3|
|♠ A 5 4|
Now if you start by leading the queen from North you gain nothing whichever hand has the king. If East has it, they will play it on your queen, you will win the ace but now the opponents have all of the highest outstanding cards in the suit. You have used both of you honours and only won one trick. If West has it they will win the trick when you play a small card. The best way to play here is to lead a small card from South towards the queen, just like the example in the video where we led towards the king when missing the ace. Now if West has the king and they play it, you will play small from North and still have your queen as a winner. So there is a 50% chance that you can win two tricks in the suit as long as you play this way.
Things to remember: