Poll #19, Finesse: Missing Ace-Queen, 12/27/2010

Duplicate and Contract Bridge: Finesse missing Ace-Queen

Everyone loves a good finesse, especially when we have lots of honors in the suit.  But all too often Bridge is like life and we don’t have as many resources as we wished.

On today’s poll, we have good news and some bad news.  The good news is we have 3 honors on a side suit.   The bad news is we are missing the Ace and Queen.   Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to win 2 tricks in your side suit.

Okay, your are the declarer, your partner and the opponents are eagerly watching how you will play this side suit.  Go get ‘em Ace!  Or should we say, go get ‘em King-Jack-10!   After taking the poll, try your skill and luck (always nice to have both) at the hand below.   Please login for additional written commentary and downloadable files.

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♠ K 4 3 2
A K Q 2
A 7 3 2
♣ 3

♠ —


♣ J

N

W

E

S

♠ —


♣ —

♠ J 10 7
4 3
K Q J 10
♣ A K Q 7

6 NT by South

In today’s polling question, we are faced with how to play a suit missing the Ace-Queen.  Enter the world of finesses or more properly stated, suit combinations.   While our BridgeHands has hundreds and hundreds of suit combinations, that’s way too many for most of us to memorize.   So on combinations like the one above, we need a general guideline we can use to follow is most situations.

And when missing the Ace-Queen and holding the Jack-10-x, the general guide when needing 2 tricks in the suit is to play low to the Jack-10-x suit.   In fact, you’ll find that in many instances your odds of making an extra trick are increased by first taking the *LOWER* tenace finesse, then later taking the higher finesse.  Wow, that guideline sure beats memorizing over 700 suit combinations!

On the above hand, South opens 1 Notrump with a balanced 16 HCP.  North bids 2C Stayman, hoping South will bid a 4 card major (up the line, Hearts first with both majors).  And with a nice 16 HCP held by North, slam looks very possible (33 points is a good benchmark for slam, with sufficient Aces).  When South bids 2D denying major suit support, North bids 4 Notrump – a Blackwood Ace-ask with strong interest in slam.  South rebids 5D, showing 1 Ace.  With a strong hand and lots of honors, North signs off in 6 Notrump.  West is on lead and begins with the Club Jack.  Plan your play.

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Happy Bridge trails,

Michael

Comments

  1. djbrooks says:

    You have got to be joking! Nearly 50% of the time the AQ spades will be in the same hand and so you are off straight away. With your actual hand, I admit that many East’s would not rise with the Q, but if West has the queen a spade return shouldn’t be too hard to find. So at best you are looking at 25% with a defensive error when there are genuine chances for making the contract.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Greetings DJ,
      Thanks for sharing you “reality check” viewipoint – you analysis is right on! This is one of those hands where “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Our poor declarer has no better play to make slam with these cards. Had South also held the Spade 9, the odds would go up to 50 percent, beginning with the Spade Jack and guessing West holds the Ace (finessing up to the King) or East holds the Queen and West holds the Ace (letting the Jack ride).
      .
      Before getting back to the reality of our situation, we also would like to point out that bidding a close slam is not unreasonable. It was unfortunate that the declarer had a poor fit with partner. But actually, while duplicate players are biased to get extra tricks going for a slam contract, our contract rubber bridge friends are happy to get a slam bonus in a minor suit. And how about that – with these hands the declarer could make 12 tricks playing in a 6 Diamond contract! Duplicate players take note – when most of the field may not bid a small slam, consider the possibility of playing slam in a minor suit instead of 6 Notrump. Okay DJ, let’s get back to reality.
      .
      The overall purpose of this lesson (not just this hand) is to consider how to BEST play the suit combination when missing both the Ace and Queen when holding the King-Jack-10 honor combination. If we were to gather our honors in one hand, it’s easier to see that we take 2 tricks when the Ace and Queen are held by the Left Hand Opponent and we repeatedly finesse low to the Jack-10.
      .
      …….KJ10x
      .
      ……xxx
      .
      And in this lesson we are illustrating that when the Jack-10 are split away from the King, our best odds are to repeatedly finesse toward to Jack-10. Actually, playing at a lower level contract, the odds are approximately 2-to-1 (about 75 percent) that the player in front of the Jack-10 will hold either the Ace or Queen. Back on the main part of our BridgeHands website where we feature our Bridge Encyclopedia under Suit Combinations, we see the odds the best line of play for our holding on line #13:
      http://www.bridgehands.com/S/Suit_Combination_6.htm
      .
      Of course, when we are playing in a slam contract the odds are distorted since the opponents may take 2 quick tricks before generously allowing us to make slam! Yet the principle still applies, to make slam our only only chance is to play low to the Jack-10-x. And we hope this lesson highlights why in this situation East should NOT play a low Spade in second seat. On this note, I’d like to add another point for players holding the East hand. East’s, looking at the dummy Ace-King-Queen-x of Hearts, you know you will need to dearly hold onto your 4 Hearts, right? So don’t let your Spade Queen become yet another busy card where you might get squeezed later in the hand – play it NOW right away when dummy leads a low Spade!
      .
      Finally, let’s look at DJ’s point for the 50 percent chance that either opponent holds both the Ace and Queen:
      .
      …………K432
      …AQ98……..65
      ………..J107
      .
      Here playing a simple finesse to the King wins while the finesse toward the Jack-10 fails to win 2 tricks.
      .
      …………K432
      …….65………AQ98
      ………..J107
      .
      In this scenario, playing at a lower level contact South can eventually win 2 tricks by playing low from the dummy toward the Jack-10-x. And since we have already gotten so deep into this, we might as well look at the 2 remaining scenarios – the split Ace-Queen.
      .
      …………K432
      …….A5………Q986
      ………..J107
      .
      Repeatedly playing low to the Jack-10-x again will eventually generate 2 tricks.
      .
      …………K432
      …….Q5………A986
      ………..J107
      .
      Repeatedly playing low to the Jack-10-x yet again will eventually produce 2 tricks. At any rate DJ, I acknowledge the wisdom of your post in the situation when playing in a slam contract as opposed to a lower level auction where we are not as concerned with the opponents getting 2 quick tricks.
      .
      DJ, thanks again for sharing your comments,
      Michael
  2. rex_little says:

    I disagree with the bidding shown for this hand. First, I play that after a Stayman sequence, 4NT is invitational (not Blackwood), just as if it were directly bid over the 1NT opening. Granted, on this hand 6NT would be the final contract anyway, as South would accept the invitation holding 16 HCP plus two 10s.

    I also play a gadget that would find that 6D slam: four-suit Stayman. With North’s hand, I would respond to 1NT with 2S. South and I would then bid four-card suits up the line until one of them was raised, showing a fit. (A notrump bid indicates that there are no more suits to show.) On this hand, the bidding would go 1NT-2S-3C-3D-4NT (RKC)-5S (2 key cards with QD)-6D.

    Of course, 2S is used only on hands with at least slam-invitational strength, as these are the only ones where you care about a 4-4 minor suit fit.

    • rex_little says:

      Whoops, I missed a bid in the above sequence. It would go 1NT-2S-3C-3D-4D-4NT-5S-6D.

      • BridgeHands says:
        Hello Rex Little,
        .
        Yes, there are many advanced bidding methods we could have discussed including the benefits of four suit transfers and pre-acceptance, minor suit stayman, etc.
        http://www.bridgehands.com/F/Four_Suit_Transfers.htm
        http://www.bridgehands.com/Indexes/Index_Bidding_BridgeHands.htm#P
        http://www.bridgehands.com/M/Minor_Suit_Stayman.htm
        And while this auction did not come up, you bring up another interesting treatment played by advancing duplicate players:
        .
        1N – 2C;
        2H – ? 4C = Gerber Ace ask, 4N = Quantitative Slam Ask
        http://www.bridgehands.com/Q/Quantitative_Notrump_Slam_Bid.htm
        .
        While everyone can check out these conventional methods described in our online BridgeHands Encyclopedia, these methods are beyond the scope of today’s lesson discussing finesses missing the Ace-Queen. Additionally, even while advanced duplicate players would agree responder’s 4N rebid is quantitative when opener bids a MAJOR SUIT, few if any have ever discussed the auction when opener rebids 2 DIAMONDS. Most advanced players would probably begin cuebidding controls after opener denies a four card major.
        .
        However today’s online video lesson was already much longer than we would prefer, clocking in at over 14 minutes. So unfortunately neither time nor attention for most would allow sidebar discussions on sophisticated bidding methods requiring advanced agreements. Yet you are absolutely correct that serious duplicate players with regular partnerships should discuss methods for hands like the ones shown here.
        .
        Happy Slam Bidding, Michael

        .

  3. lakspieler7 says:

    Your login allows us to check a box “remember me”. I have checked it every time but it never remembers me. Please either make it work or get rid of the “remember me” box. As it is, it is frustrating.
    Thanks.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Lakspieler7,
      Unfortunately, some combinations of web browsers and cookie settings override the “Remember Me” box. Sorry your local computer setup does not enable this feature.
      Michael
  4. BridgeHands says:

    After the first day of polling, the majority with 47 percent of the total votes have spoken:
    .
    ….. All of the above!
    .
    Two selections were tied, each with 19 percent of the votes:
    .
    ….. Generally, first take lower of repeated finesses
    ….. K-4-3-2 and J-10-7: finesse low twice (toward J-10)
    .
    While we each may have our favorite finesse scenarios when missing the Ace-Queen, all of these approaches are supported by the Bridge probabilities. Ditto on the remaining 2 choices:
    .
    ….. K-J-5 and 4-3-2: finesse Queen, then Ace
    ….. K-J-9 and 3-2: finesse low twice (not Ace)
    .
    For more details, please see our BridgeHands Encyclopedia:
    http://www.bridgehands.com/S/Suit_Combination_6.htm
    .
    While learning tables with hundreds of odds may not be your idea of a good time, as one of our responses aptly stated:
    .
    ….. Generally we first take the lower of repeated finesses.
    .
    Happy finessing, Michael
  5. tommylee says:

    Nice problem and a good lesson. That less than 50% got it right shows there is considerable misunderstanding about those combinations where relying on instinct may lead you down the wrong path. Especially tough are the combinations where you must lead away from high cards to one or more low cards.Not to be overlooked is the benefit of second hand making a defensive mistake when you lead away from a high honor toward subordinate honors. If you play in a manner to permit a mistake to occur, it often does,

    • BridgeHands says:

      Hi TommyLee,
      .
      Yes, while repeatedly finessing a connected honor sequence seems natural:
      .
      ……K J 10 2
      ……….5 4 3
      .
      When the Jack-10 are in the other hand, admittedly it seems peculiar to finesse toward the isolated lower honors:
      .
      ……K 4 3 2
      ………J 10 5
      .
      And great point about giving the opponent in the second seat a tough decision (when playing to a closed hand). Another favorite is to play low from the dummy to a singleton King, making RHO wonder if it is right to play the Ace in second seat. In both of these scenarios, part of the trick is not to wait too long in the play of the hand to try these gambits. Otherwise clever opponents will have both a count on the hand and receive signals from partner.
      .
      Warm Regards, Michael
  6. Charles says:

    I agree with rex, 4NT is quantitative, not Blackwood. Standard practice says after Stayman 4NT is not Blackwood ovver a 2D, 2H, or 2S bid by South. Blackwood is for slam investigation after a suit fit is found.

    Also your question is flawed in that you ask about combinations holding two honors missing the A & Q. In the third combination you have three honors, KJ10.

    The HCP total for both hands is only 32, so the partnership could be easily be off an AK even using an ace asking convention. Especially dangerous with North’s singleton club. Give South the S AQJ and C Kxxx and 6NT would be a poor contract.

    Personally I would not accept a slam invitation with the South hand. There is nothing in the South hand to upgrade it to a maximum hand. No 5-card suit and using Marty Bergen’s formula you have 4 Qs & Js and only 3 As & 10s, so no added points there. The J10x of spades may also be worthless.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Charles,
      .
      Yes, for players with advanced agreements, we all agree 4 Notrump is a quantitative slam try, not Blackwood – many advanced players would rebid Gerber to ask for Aces. So for serious students of the game like yourself with strong partner, bidding 4N to invite slam is perfect. In a prior post above, you’ll find our links to quantitative slam tries.
      .
      At any rate, the intent of the Poll, lesson, and exercise was to focus on card play when missing an Ace-Queen combination.
      .
      Thank you for sharing your analysis – all very helpful to our emerging players.
      Michael

      .

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