Poll #20, Finesse: Missing King-Queen, 12/29/2010

Contract and Duplicate Bridge: Finessing King and Queen

Finesse, finesse, let me count the ways.   Yes, the road to successful finesses has many twists and turns down the pathway to success.  So let’s scoot up to our virtual Bridge table and give it our best shot.

On today’s poll, we are blessed with some nice honors but missing the King and Queen.  As declarer you are the conductor and partner is your orchestra across the table.  So it’s time to locate the royal nobility – let the music begin. 


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Similar to Poll #19, in today’s polling question we are faced with how to play a suit missing the King-Queen.  When missing these “royal honors” most of  the time we again finesse toward the lower connected honors (giving consideration to length and placement of honors).

♠ J 10 2
J 10 9 8
K 10 3
♣ K 3 2

♠ —

♣ 10





♠ —

♣ —

♠ A 4 3
A 5 4
Q 9 8 2
♣ A Q 5

On the above hand, South opens 1 Notrump with a balanced 16 HCP.  North holds a flat 8 HCP with lots of secondary honors – 7 to be exact and bids 2C Stayman hoping for a Heart fit with South.  When South bids 2D denying major suit support, North bids an invitational 2 Notrump.  South has a hair pulling exercise deciding whether or not to accept a 3 Notrump game.   Assuming South is willing to take a bit of a gamble and bid 3 Notrump, it’s time to plan your play.

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Happy Bridge trails,



  1. BridgeHands says:
    Alright, at the end of the first day of polling we have a whopping majority going with:
    ….All of the above.
    This includes the following finesse tactics against opponents King-Queen honors:
    – A32 and J109, repeatedly finesse K-Q
    – J104 and A32, if possible don’t break suit
    – AJ108 and 432, finesse K-Q if 2 tricks are needed
    – AJ108 and 432, finesse 9 then K-Q if 3 tricks are needed
    In second place with 11 percent of the vote, some went with the repeated finesse of the King-Queen when the declarer needs 2 tricks. Yes, that’s works about three-fourths of the time. Of course the odds go down appreciably when attempting that DEEP finesse to the 8 spot only has a marginal chance for success, it’s certainly the best way to make 3 tricks in the suit if it’s really all that necessary.
    Hwever as we saw in our exercise today, our odds are even better when holding the Jack-10-9-8 opposite the Ace and a few other cards in the suit.
    Congratulations on our clear majority recognizing the merit of each answer when evaluating the best play strategy. And for those that picked only one of the four answers as their best respone
    In our upcoming end of the year Polling You, we will explore card play when missing the King-Jack-10.
    Good luck and good night, Michael
  2. Charles says:

    3NT is certainly a gamble with these two hands. You have only 5 top tricks and need to develop 4 more. Not only do you have to find the heart KQ split or East having both honors. But hearts need to divide 3-3 or else one opponent can hold off playing their honor and either locking you out of dummy or force you to play the A before they have to play their honor. Also West has to have the diamond A to give you the needed two entries to the dummy. The big danger is if East gains the lead and returns a spade through declarer’s A.

    So my plan would be to win the first trick in the South hand and immediately lead a diamond towards the dummy playing the K if West plays low. Assuming the K wins, lead the heart J for a finesse. Assuming West wins the first finesse a spade return is most likely. Win with the spade A and lead a club to dummy’s K and repeat the heart finesse.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Charles,
      While the hands may seem like a gamble, with the intermediate honors and great spot cards it’s not so much a gamble at all. To validate this claim, I entered the North-South hands in Dealmaster Pro and randomly assigned hands to East-West. South playing in a 3 Notrump game, we find the following results:
      Making 8 tricks: 100 percent
      Making 9 tricks: 93 percent
      So you’ll find these are actually better odds than most 25 point hands.
      You do bring up a valid point that on the illustrative hands, we were lucky that East-West had a 3-3 Heart split, normally a 36 percent occurence – however closer to 50 percent with the flat North-South hands. On another point, yes we are fortunate that East held the Diamond Ace. However, as mentioned in the lesson, North’s Diamond 10 when accompanied by the King and third card is *huge* and South’s 9-8 body cards.
      As far as the danger of an opponent switching to Spades, actually that’s another point of the lesson we are trying to reinforce. When holding Ace-third opposite Jack-10-third, we will often make 2 tricks in the suit as long as we can induce the opponents to break the suit. So if the opponents break Spades, most of the time the Jack-10-x will produce an extra trick that we did not receive in our illustrative play.
      Regarding your line of play, yes it is technically correct and can be a better line of play with some holdings. While I didn’t have enough time to cover the point, part of the declarer’s initial assessment should be to explore entries into both hands. And in the case, immediately winning the Club King in dummy often carrier some risks. A more comprehensive discussion would highlight the lovely Diamond King-10-x opposite South’s Queen-9-8-x and other side suit holdings.
      Many thanks Charles for your insightful feedback,

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