Poll #15, In 3 Notrump with flat hands, consider your finesses, 12/17/2010

Also see graphic diagram beneath polling question:

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♠ K 3 2
K 6 5
10 9 3 2
♣ 10 9 8

♠ —

♣ —





♠ Q 10 8
A 10 8
A K Q 7
♣ A J 2

While flat 4-3-3-3 shaped hands can often be a negative factor, this time South’s 20 HCP hand will pull its own weight.  The Diamond Ace-King-Queen-fourth is a great holding and the intermediate 10’s might prove beneficial as well.  After opening 2 Notrump, with 6 HCP North bids 3 Notrump.  Did you notice North also holds a 4-3-3-3 shape?  But again, North is proud of the intermediate values which could become a plus – notice the Diamond 10-9-x-x and the Club 10-9-8.  In time, perhaps these “spot cards” will be valuable to the opener. 

West makes a safe “top of broken sequence” lead – the Heart Queen.  Right away declarer South is aware that in the Heart suit, West holds the Q-J-9-x-[…] since South holds the A-10-8 and dummy holds the K-x-x.   Okay, it’s time to play your declarer play – certainly the opponents must be looking at the dummy as well and planning their defense.  In addition to voting and watching the video below, we invite you to login, read additional commentary and download a copy of our MS-Word, PDF, HTML, PBN and other formatted Bridge program files.

Looking for sure winners, declarer South counts 1 Spade, 2 Hearts, 3 Diamonds and 1 Club.  Assuming the Diamonds break normally, South has 8 tricks and needs to develop another winner somewhere.  So where do you think we should look?

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  1. bhogsett says:

    The diagram shows East with the spade ace, but the discussion of play is based on North having the ace.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi bhogsett,

      Did we make a slip of the tongue somewhere? Sorry for any confusion that may have caused.

      Certainly the declarer’s Spade situation is a problematic situation unless the opponents break the suit. Yes, the Spade Ace is held by East and hopefully the essence of the commentary addresses this point when West eventually leads a low Spade and East keep the Spade Ace as a “cover card” over North’s King. This concept is particularly important on this hand since the declare is short on dummy entries, need to attempt a repeated Club finesse try.

      Thank you for the feedback, Michael

      • Christel says:

        you stated the bidding went 1 N – 3 N – obviously it went 2 N – 3 N as later stated…

        • BridgeHands says:
          Christel, thank you for pointing out the typo on the poll itself – all the commentary and associated diagrams seem to be fine. We’ve made the update on the server so on this blog post and elsewhere (where where the poll uses a reference link to the server) folks will now see the correct 2NT references. Only the EMAILs with “hard-coded” pictures will show the erroneous 1NT typo.
          Warm Regards, Michael
  2. tommylee says:

    On polling question 15, when you end play East with the spade and he is forced to return the spade, you said the second finesse in clubs was 50%. Since the a priori probability of both the queen and king both being West was roughly 24% when the hand is dealt, does losing the first finesse rreduce the a posteriori probablilty of winning the second finesse from 75% to 50%? While we started with 4 probabilities (honors both West, both East, and split two ways) we have only two remaining which are equally likely so 50%. Apparently that the way it works?

    • Gordonimus says:

      All other things being equal, from a cold statistical standpoint, it’s true that the probability drops from 75% to 50%. But are all other things equal. From the bidding and play, is it feasible that West have both the King and Queen? Isn’t it possible, given ALL the evidence, that the probability of a successful second finesse might even rise above 75%?

      • BridgeHands says:
        Hi TommyLee and Gordonimus,

        It’s great to see you both have such a strong understanding about Bridge probabilities and statistics – very impressive!

        For those who are not into statistics, let’s give them a brief overview of this discussion. From a layman’s perspective, here’s the basics:

        “A Priori” probability pertains to a completely unknow situation, such as drawing a card from among 4 cards, two red and two black. Before you draw a card the odds are 50-50. Now let’s say the card we drew was a red card. Does that mean the odds go up proportionately when we draw 1 of the remaining 3 cards? No, not really. Now we have 2 black cards and 1 red card in the pack. So are odds AT THAT MOMENT are one in three than we will draw another red card. Intially, before we drew any cards the odds AT THAT MOMENT were one in four that we would draw two red cards. But after we drew our first card, our statistics folks refer to this new situation (where we have additional information) as “posteriori” probablity.

        Whew, hopefully this rough explanation will be helpful to those curious about our discussion here.

        And as you both point out, in Bridge we often have a lot of additional information to consider besides the raw “a priori” odds. Thank you for bringing this topic up to others – it’s great to have these helpful comments for the benefit of those looking for helpful hints on our game. And while many aren’t too keen to really into odds and statistics, it’s worthwhile to at least understand the concepts of how stastics AND bidding/play inferences can help improve our odds to make the best choice among questionable alternatives.

        For more on Bridge probabilities, we welcome you to check out the links on our BridgeHands Encyclopedia. See:







        And if you are REALLY a glutton for punishment, check out our comprehensive listing containing hundreds of suit combinations. These are the “a Priori” odds (before any cards have been played) when considering various finesse alternatives. The tables also take into affect the number of tricks needed and the odds of taking that line of play when extra tricks are required. Obviously when needing more tricks, the odds are lower but as they say, “Desperate times call for desperate measures!


        Good luck and good odds, Michael

  3. BridgeHands says:
    As Friday comes to a close, the Poll #15 leaders with 59 percent of the popular vote have spoken:

    ……Promote Diamonds, finesse Clubs

    So with more honors in the Club suit (missing 2 of the top 6), most favored the suit to try a repeated finesse. And while combining our second and third place positions would still not be in the running, their approaches still have a reasonable chance to make the contract:

    ……Promote Diamonds, endplay West in Hearts
    ……Promote Diamonds, finesse Spades

    And while the approch suggested in our commentary immediately began with a Club finese before promoting Diamonds, some of you will use another well reasoned tactic. Begin by winning the Heart lead in declarer’s hand, switch to Diamonds and when the bad split is discovered, then and only then enter the dummy with the dummy’s Heart King. Now in the dummy, finesse East’s remaining 2 Diamond tricks. Yes, that line of play ensures declarer wins 4 Diamonds at the expense of the Club promotion.

    So with these interesting hands, there are many “roads that lead to Rome.” So when you end up with marginal hands like these two, take a good deep breath, put on your thinking cap and consider all your options before committing to a line of play. Okay?

    Warm Regards,


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