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Rule of 2 - With a double tenace, such as A Q 10 or K J 10, it is normally best to first finesse toward the lower honor.  The Rule of 2 is a handy “rule of thumb” to consider when planning repeated finesses within one suit. Generally, we first play to the lower of split honors, repeating the finesse to the higher honor on the second round of play:

#1. A Q 10

       6 5 4          Finesse West's Jack, then King

The Rule of 2 has a 76 percent chance to earn two tricks and a 24 percent chance to make 3 tricks.

 #2. A J 9

        4 3 2          Finesse West's 10, then King-Queen

We can always make one trick; using the Rule of 2 we have a 38 percent chance to make two. Looking at the above explanations, we note that in both situations the correct play is to first try the lower finesse. Regardless of the outcome, we return to our hand and repeat the finesse to the higher ranking finesse. The nice thing about the Rule of 2 is that it’s easy to remember and can be applied with various tenace situations as:

 #3. K J 7

       4 3 2          Finesse West's Queen, then Ace.

The Rule of 2 has a 76 percent change to earn two tricks and a 24 percent chance to make 3 tricks. While the tenances are different, this sequence is effectively the same as #1 above.

 #4. Q 10 8 7

        4 3 2          Finesse West's 9 then Ace-King

While we only have two lowly honors, the Rule of 2 still is in force. This line has an 85 percent chance to make one trick and a 26 percent chance to take two tricks. Of course, like any “rule of thumb”, we should not be surprised to find exceptions. Here are some caveats: (continued on next page)

a) Evaluate the best line of play. Perhaps you can promote a side suit or let the opponents first break the suit, such as employing an endplay. Here’s an example:

#5. K J 7

       4 3 2

Returning to our prior example, we normally finesse West's Queen, then Ace. However, this was a major suit and West bid the suit, so it is possible both of our finesses are doomed to lose. Here’s the entire deal:  


            S  K J 7

            H  A 7 6 5 4

            D  K 4 3

            C  8 2

   West                          East

S  6 5                       S  A Q 10 9 8

H  2                          H  3

D  J 10 9 8 7 6        D  Q 5

C  7 6 5 4                C  K Q J 10 9


             S  4 3 2

             H  K Q J 10 9 8

             D  A 2

             C  A 3


West        North       East       South

   —             —            1S           2H

   P             4H           All Pass

Based on East’s 1S opening bid, declarer’s chances to finesse a Spade do not look promising. Looking at the situation, we can see that in addition to losing one Club, we have three Spade losers – one too many. So instead of playing a repeated finesse, let’s pursue an endplay. We should pull trump, win the Diamond Ace-King and ruff the third Diamond. Next we win the Club Ace and lose a Club. East is on lead with this holding:


            S  K J -

            H  A 7 6 5 -

            D  - - -

            C  - -

West                       East

S  - 2                   S  A Q 10 - -

H  -                      H  -

D  J 10 9 - - -     D  - -

C  7 6 - -             C  K Q J - -


             S  4 3 -

             H  - Q J 10 9 -

             D  - -

             C  - -

East has won two tricks but is stuck for a play. Leading either a Club or Diamond will allow declarer to pitch a Spade loser from hand and ruff in the dummy, restricting East to only one more Spade loser. Leading a Spade is no better – dummy will win the carefully retained Spade King, losing only one more Spade.

Note for the aspiring defenders: West should lead the Spade 6, top a doubleton sequence. A considerate West appreciates that the outstanding Spades are 6, 5, 4 and 3 (dummy’s 8 and 2 are visible). So West can deduce a disciplined partner East is leading the top of a doubleton sequence – not a three card suit (begin low or medium, depending on agreements). Trusting partner, East can win two Spades, give partner a ruff on the third Spade and later win the Club King – what a hero!

b) Consider transportation – since you need to return to the hand in order to repeat the finesse, ensure the other hand has sufficient entries (especially weaker dummy)

c) Beware of a dangerous opponent – if the opponent behind the lower finesse (the Jack in the first hand) wins the lead, might the player return a card in an unprotected suit and run many tricks though your hand? (especially in a Notrump contract) If so, perhaps there is another safer line of play.

d) If you do not need the extra trick to take home the contract, consider the direct line of play. This is particularly true should the opponents have an unusual suit distribution in trump or a seemingly promotable side suit. A similar deviation is true when the bidding disclosed one opponent holds certain cards – we should make good use of all information provided.

e) As the number of combined cards in a suit grows above seven, the benefit associated with the Rule of 2 is diminished. Here is an example:

#5. K J 7 6

       5 4 3 2

While the honor sequence here is the same as #3 above, the best line of play is dependent on your goal. For instance, if your objective is to make two tricks, the best line is to initially finesse the Ace (68 percent chance). When we hold a greater number of cards, it’s more likely we can drop opponents’ lower honor as well as promote the suit. However, if we really need to make three tricks, then by all means use the Rule of 2 on this holding.

In summary, the Rule of 2 is a nifty rule of thumb with multiple finesse opportunities when holding split honors in a given suit.

Also see Finesse and Suit Combinations.

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