Poll #21, Finesse: Missing King-Jack, 12/31/2010

Contract and Duplicate Bridge: Finessing King and Jack

Okay Bridge friends, what do you say we finish the year with some real finesse? Here at our virtual table, we appreciate holding both the Ace and Queen even if they are not both in the same hand (so called “working honors”). Yet playing in Notrump and holding the Ace allows us to control the tempo, should we wish to duck a trick along the way.

And as in real life, we’ve also included a hand with some nice body cards that might come in handy if we can figure out how to play a secondary finesse. Ah the joys of Bridge, a lifetime of learning. We here at BridgeHands wish you all a joyous New Year!


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Similar to Poll #19 and 20, in today’s polling question we are faced with how to play a suit missing two honors: this time we are missing the King-Jack.  As you will recall from our earlier lessons, we typically finesse toward the lower connected honors (giving consideration to length and placement of honors).

South deals and opens 1 Notrump.  Despite holding a lackluster 4-3-3-3 shape, South is pleased with the working honors in Diamonds and Clubs.  North signs off in 3 Notrump with no interest in slam (holding 13 HCP and needing 33 HCP for slam, South cannot hold 20 HCP).  Okay, off we go – West begins leading the Spade Jack.

♠ Q 9 8
K 2
K J 8 6
♣ A 4 3 2

♠ J

♣ —





♠ —

♣ —

♠ A 3 2
10 8 6
A Q 10 4
♣ K Q 9

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Best wishes to you and your loved ones in the New Year.  Oh yes, and your Bridge partner, too!

Happy New Year,


  1. rex_little says:

    Note that West’s inferior opening lead made the play possible. When you have a worthless hand like his, experts say you should try to find partner’s suit rather than set up your own. With a choice of suits, prefer a major since the notrump bidders are less likely to have concealed strength there. Following these principles would have led West to the killing heart lead.

    If West insisted on leading a spade, he should have led fourth best from J-10-7-6, not the jack. Declarer would then have to take a guess at trick 1. If the lead was from the king, he must go up with the queen. If it was from the J-10, he must play low from dummy. With no opposing bidding to go on, the odds favor playing the queen–which loses here.

    • quickie says:

      West’s inferior opening lead should have been read as top of an interior sequence since dummy has the nine. Declarer should have come up with the Queen. Seems two wrongs sometimes makes a right.

  2. Cbarles says:

    Let’s.not be too quick to condem West’s opening lead without seeing his complete hand. West may have a hand such as this


    With no outside entry a heart lead is not appealing, so the Spade J looks like the best shot to hit partner’s hand plus is a little safer than leading from Qxxx.

    Opening leads are tough, but especially difficult when the opponents haven’t bid any suits like this auction.

  3. BridgeHands says:
    As we bring the year to a close, our final polling results show a considerable range of opinions!
    10 percent – A32 and Q654, first low to Ace, then low and duck, then finesse Queen
    11 percent – A32 and Q109, first play low to 10, then cash Ace hoping to drop the King
    25 percent – Both of the above.
    21 percent – LHO leads Jack to your dummy Q98 and A32 in hand. Go up with Queen, save Ace
    32 percent – All of the above
    Wow, from the data so far after the first day it looks like we have a wide range of ideas on these finesse combinations, don’t we? Either that, or perhaps the responses to the question might have been worded better – it’s hard to say. For those of you who went through our lesson and watched the video commentary, you will notice the hands on the fourth response are the same as our Spade suit in our lessons (although there we suggested play the 8, not the Queen as was the response on the poll – an attempt to try a bit of misdirection on our behalf.
    LHO leads Jack to your dummy Q98 and A32 in hand. Go up with Queen, save Ace
    In the lesson, we suggest that when the leader begins with the Jack, it’s often from J-10-x-x In that case we would NOT follow the above advice but instead play the 9 from the dummy. On the other hand, if you have reason to believe that the lead is from K-J-10-x, then for sure, go up right away with the dummy Queen! So some of those who thought LHO opened with the Jack yet held the King, rightly voted for the “all of the above” response. Those who fitured LHOs Jack opening most likely denied the King, they seemed to vote for response #3, both of the above (#1 and #2).
    At any rate, of most importance is that before playing either the 8 or the Queen in second seat, give careful consideration to all available information before making the critical decision on the first trick.
    Again, many thanks for your participation in our Polling You, your thoughtful comments, and supporting BridgeHands. It’s great to be in association with all of our virtual Bridge friends. We hope you have a wonderful New Year and enjoy your Contract Bridge and Duplicate Bridg in 2011.

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