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Points Schmoints - CHAPTER 13 -
Some Players Do it With Finesse

© Marty Bergen


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Index   TOC

Prior Chapter:
WHEN PLAYING NOTRUMP                                                                99

Note: Only summaries are included below -
see book for details

Hold That Finesse                                                                                    109

Take Everything in Sight                                                                         113

I Never Met a Five-Card Suit I Didn't Like                                           114

Finesses Do Have Their Day in the Sun                                                 116

How Low Can You Go?                                                                            119

Hold That Finesse

“A finesse is a tool; and you don't use a tool without rhyme or reason, just because it happens to be lying about.”


                                                    Alfred Sheinwold

Do you like to finesse? Would you believe I do not?

I will never forget my initial exposure to finesses. I was 14, and my mother had just given me my first bridge book, the best-selling 5 Weeks to Winning Bridge by Alfred Sheinwold. After 18 chapters of basics and bidding, I could not wait to play. Chapters 19 and 20 dealt with finessing. As I read, I practiced with a deck of cards. It was going well, and I could not wait to play so that I could finesse until I dropped¼

Chapter 21 was titled “When Not to Finesse!” Wow! Sheinwold began by stating: “Having learned how to finesse, we must now decide whether to do so.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. He gave many examples of hands where it was wrong to finesse. Incredible.

Of course, the above is inevitable. In any game, the first step for new players is to learn the basics. Once they understand them, the next step is to apply that knowledge.

When it comes to finesses, a major philosophical difference separates the masses from the most accomplished players. Most players are eager to finesse. Finessing is simple and it provides immediate gratification. Experts do not like to finesse, and never have. Why? Finesses lose half the time. I compare the expert's mindset with that of a professional gambler: Do you think he gets rich on 50–50 propositions?

Page 109
© Marty Bergen

Take Everything in Sight


Given the ability to see all 13 cards, and no shortage of entries to  each hand, can you win three tricks against perfect defense? The lead is in the South hand.








South (You)


Lead low from the South hand and insert the nine when West correctly plays low. East will win the 10. When you regain the lead, cash dummy's ace, capturing West's king. It is now easy to lead dummy's two and finesse through East's remaining J7 — you have the Q8 behind him. For those interested in bridge lingo, this is an example of an intra-finesse.


You are East and it is your lead against a notrump contract. Can you win four tricks in this suit?








South (You)


The answer is to lead the jack, which serves to neutralize dummy's ten. If South ducks, your jack holds. Your side then wins the ace and king, ending in your hand with the good eight.

Suppose South covers the jack with his queen. West wins his ace and returns the nine. Now you are sitting pretty with the K82 behind dummy's 107. This surrounding play allows you to run the suit. Well done!

Page 113
© Marty Bergen

I Never Met a Five-Card Suit I Didn't Like

The average declarer’s point of view is often short-sighted. All he notices are his honor cards. He begins the play of a hand by grabbing the obvious winners, then tries a finesse or two. When the smoke clears, all he has won is what he had coming — no more, no less.

The expert has a totally different perspective. He is able to win tricks with small cards that his less experienced counterparts never noticed. He appreciates long suits and their ability to produce extra tricks. Any schmoe can win tricks with aces and kings; the expert finds it aesthetically more pleasing to win tricks with twos and threes.


Finesses Do Have Their Day in the Sun

Although forgoing a finesse is often the correct play, at times a finesse is necessary:

1.    When there is no alternative;

2.    When the finesse is odds on based on the bidding or early play;

3.    When the finesse offers the best chance to develop the key suit.


How Low Can You Go?

“One advantage of bad bidding is that you get practice at playing atrocious contracts.”


Alfred Sheinwold

Everybody knows how to finesse with AQ opposite 43. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is possible to finesse against virtually any card.


CHAPTER 14 - TRUMPS ARE WILD                                                  121

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