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How to Finesse for Extra Winners in Bridge

8 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Finessing in Bridge

When playing at a trump contract in bridge, you can take a finesse to create extra winners. You need the following in your hand and the dummy to take a finesse and establish extra winners:

  • An unevenly divided suit (the dummy holds more cards in the suit than you do)

  • A majority of the honor cards, usually in the dummy

  • The absence of one or more of the top four honor cards

If you have a hand in which you can create extra winners in a suit by taking a finesse, lead from weakness to strength, usually a low card from your hand with the intention of playing an honor card from the dummy. But keep in mind that luck plays a role when taking a finesse. Because you don’t know who has the missing honor(s), finesses work about half the time. Shed no tears if your finesse doesn’t pan out. If the suit you’re finessing has enough honor cards between the two hands, even if the finesse loses, you can still create at least one extra winner.

In this image, you have the makings of an extra winner in spades because the dummy holds more cards than you, not to mention three honor cards:

image0.jpg
  1. You begin by leading the ♠3, from weakness to strength.

    West also plays a low spade.

  2. You play the ♠J from the dummy.

    Say East has the ♠K and takes the trick. It’s not the end of the world; the ♠AQ in the dummy are the two highest remaining spades in the game — so you know you can win two tricks with those cards.

  3. When you or the dummy regain the lead by winning a trick in another suit, play the ♠A, removing your last spade, and then play the ♠Q.

    By the time you play the ♠Q, you won’t have any more spades in your hand, so you can discard a loser. Voilà — an extra winner! If the ♠J wins the trick, indicating that West images to have the ♠K, repeat the finesse.

  4. You must return to your hand with a winning trick in another suit and lead your remaining spade, the ♠4.

  5. Assuming West plays low, play the ♠Q, which should win the trick.

  6. Finally, you can discard a loser on the ♠A.

    In this scenario, you not only create an extra winner, but your finesse also works. Luck is on your side, and you don’t lose a trick.

On the other hand, in the cards in this image, your honor strength isn’t strong enough to create any extra winners. When you have only two honors in the dummy and no honors in your hand, it helps if the two honors are equals, such as the queen and the jack or the king and the queen. Because that’s not the case here, this isn’t such a hot suit to attack early on. True, if the finesse wins, you have no loser, but no extra winner either. And if the finesse loses (if East has the ♠K), you lose one trick, and you have no extra winner to show for it.

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