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Intermediate Bridge
LESSON 15
Finesse Strategies
  1. Types of Finesse
  2. Probabilities of Success
  3. Finesse thinking

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Types of finesse
The fundamental purpose of a finesse is to either
  1. win a trick by avoiding Opponent's high card: an Indirect finesse
    or
  2. win a trick by catching Opponent's high card: a Direct finesse
Here follow descriptions of the various types. 1. Simple Indirect finesse
In an Indirect finesse a low card is lead from one hand towards an almost high card in the other, trying to avoid being captured by a higher card of the Opponents.
An Indirect finesse has a 50% chance of success of winning 1 extra trick.
font color="#000000">♣ x x   > x     x Q A ♣ | ♦ x x   > x   →   x x K
♥ A x   > x   →   x x Q
| ♠ K J x   > x     x <   10 A ♠
(Two-way finesse)
2. Multiple Indirect finesse
In a Multiple Indirect finesse a low card is lead from one hand towards two or three touching Honours in the other, trying to avoid being captured by a higher card of the Opponents. A Multiple Indirect finesse has a 50% chance of success. If the finesse is successful, it can be taken again for a second or even third time.   Even if the finesse fails one or more additional winners have been secured.
♣ x x   > x       x J Q A ♣ | ♦ x x   > x     x Q K
♥ x x   > x     10 J Q A ♥ | ♠ x x   > x     x J Q K
3. Direct finesse
In an Direct finesse a high card is lead from one hand towards a higher card in the other, trying to capture the Opponent's almost high card.
For an Direct finesse you need to have 4 of the top 5 or 6 cards to succeed. Even when the finesse fails it will produce one or more extra winner. A Direct finesse has a 50% chance of success.
♠ 10 J   > Q     x x x A ♠ | ♥ 9 10   > J     x x K A ♥
4. Double finesse
In an Double finesse the Opponents hold two Honour cards in the suit concerned. A Double finesse usually fails the first time and has to be taken twice.
A Double finesse can be a Direct or an Indirect finesse.   "With 8 cards or less, double finesse !"
If you can afford to lose one trick a Double finesse has a 76% chance of winning 2 out of 3 tricks.
♠ 9 10   > J     x x x A ♠ | ♥ x x   > 9     x 10 Q A ♥
♦ x x   > x     9 10 K A ♦ | ♣ x x   > x     9 10 J A ♣
5. Ruffing finesse
A Direct finesse where a high card in one hand is lead towards a void in the other. If LHO covers, ruff the trick, if LHO plays low discard a loser from a side suit :   ♥ J Q   > K     - ♥

With a singleton   ♣ 10 J Q   > A     x   :   lead the A♣ first, then Q♣ for a ruffing finesse. 6. Deep finesse
In an Deep finesse the Opponents hold three Honour cards in the suit concerned. A Deep finesse usually fails the first time and has to be taken twice.
The chance of success depends on the actual card combination held
♠ x x   > x     9 Q A ♠ | ♥ x x   > x     9 J A ♥
♦ x x   > x     9 J K ♦ |  



(Down - Up - Top) IBR 15.2 - Probabilities of Success Here follow a list of the statistical probability of success for the various finesse types as published in the ACBL Bridge Encyclopedia, Edition 2011.
100% : Direct finesse   -   ♠ 10 J   > Q     x x (x) A
                Always gains one or more extra tricks when the finesse fails (a 50% chance)

100% : Multiple Indirect finesse   -   ♥ (x) x   > x       10 J Q A ♥
                Always gains one or more extra tricks when the finesse fails (a 50% chance)

79% : Deep finesse   -   ♥ x x   > x       9 J K ♥
                79% chance of winning 1 trick out of 3   |   25% chance of winning 2 tricks out of 3

76% : Double finesse
            ♠ x x   > x
    10 Q A ♠     |     ♥ 9 10   > J     x x (x) A ♥
            ♦ x x   > x     10 J A ♦      |     ♣ x x   > x     x J K ♣
            76% chance of gaining at least 1 extra trick from 2 finesses

68% : 3-2 split when Opponents hold 5 cards in the combined hands
            ♠ K x x x     x x x A ♠     |     ♥ x x x     x x x K A ♥
            68% chance of gaining one (with 4-4) or two (with 5-3) extra tricks

63% : Deep finesse   -   ♥ x x   > x       9 Q A ♥
            63% chance of gaining one extra trick from 2 finesses

50% : Simple Indirect finesse
            ♠ x x   > x     x Q A ♠     |     ♥ x x > x     x x K
            50% chance of gaining one extra trick

38% : Deep finesse   -   ♥ x x   > x       9 J A ♥
                38% chance of winning 2 tricks if 2nd player plays low
                50% chance of winning 2 tricks if 2nd players plays K or Q

35% : 3-3 split when Opponents hold 6 cards in the combined hands
            ♣ x x x     x x K A ♣     |     ♦ x x     x x x K A ♦
            35% chance of gaining one (with 4-3) or two (with 5-2) extra tricks

(Down - Up - Top) IBR 15.3 - Finesse thinking Always ask yourself the following three questions when considering a finesse.
  1. Is taking this Finesse the best option for making my contract ?

  2. Can this Finesse endanger my contract ?

  3. When should I take this Finesse ?
Here follow three typical examples illustrating the above.


Example 1   Contract : 3NT     Lead : Q♠
Declarer holds up the first trick and wins the second (J♠ lead) with his K♠. What now ?
Declarer counts 8 sure winners, so he needs to develop one trick more. An indirect finesse of the K♦ is one possibility, but it has only a 50% chance of success.

  Declarer (W)
♠  A K 9
♥  A K Q
♦  8 5 3
♣  K 7 5 4
  Dummy (E)
♠  7 3
♥  9 6 2
♦  A Q 4 2
♣  A 9 3 2

With 8 clubs in the combined hands a much better option is to play for a 3-2 split of Opponents'' card in the suit, which has a 68% chance of success.
Declarer therefore leads and wins his K♣ (trick 3), then (trick 4) plays a low &club; in both hands.

  1. If both Opponents follow suit to the second trick Declarer's contract is safe, having secured three winners in total. He wins Opponent's 3rd lead with his A♠.

  2. If, on the other hand, one Opponent shows out in (are split 4-1), Declarer still has the option of finessing the K♦.

Holding up the first ♠ trick is vital, for after three rounds of that suit South will have not ♠ left in case they were divided 5-3. It is therefore safe to take the finesse. For if it now fails to South, he will either have no ♠ left to lead to his Partner (5-3 split), or if he has the ♠ are divided 4-4 in which case the opponents will win only one more ♠ trick (4 tricks in total).

Conclusion
Playing for the 3-2 ♣ split is a much better option (68%) than taking a single finesse (50%).
But by holding up the first ♠ trick you can do the finesse too, provided you do the finesse last !


Example 2   Contract : 3NT     Lead : Q♦
Declarer wins the first trick with Dummy's K♦ (no need to hold up once in this case). Declarer counts 8 sure winners and therefore has to develop one trick more.
The obvious choice is ♣ in which Declarer can play for the drop of Opponents' Q♣ or finesse it in either direction.
Which option should Declarer take ?

  Declarer (W)
♠  K 9 2
♥  A K 3
♦  6 3
♣  K J 9 6 4
  Dummy (E)
♠  7 5
♥  Q J 9 6
♦  A K 2
♣  A 10 8 3

The danger lies in Declarer's unprotected K♠ and South is the danger man. If South gains the lead he can lead a ♠ (perhaps a Q♠, a J♠ or a 10♠) so that North can capture Declarer's King with the A♠ in which case Declarer will lose 4 (or even 5) tricks in spades alone.

Declarer must therefore make sure that South does not gain the lead. Playing for the Q♣ to drop on the second club trick is therefore not an option. The club finesse has therefore to be taken so that North and not South gains the lead it if the finesse fails.

Therefore at trick 2 the A♣ is played from Dummy, followed by the 10♣. If South plays low, Declarer plays low too.

  1. If North plays a low too, Dummy leads the 8♣ for a second finesse.

  2. If North wins with the Q♣, he can not harm Declarer regardless what he leads next.

In either case Declarer's contract is secured with at least 4 tricks in the ♣ suit.

Conclusion
When holding an unprotected King : avoid giving the lead to the Opponent sitting under (to the right of) the hand of the unprotected King.


Example 3   Contract : 3NT     Lead : Q♥
Declarer holds up once, then wins trick 2 with his K♥. He can count 6 sure winners and therefore needs to develop three more tricks to secure his 3NT contract.
Extra tricks are available through finesses in both ♣ and ♠.

  Declarer (W)
♠  Q J 9
♥  A 6
♦  K 7 4 3
♣  A 10 6 2
  Dummy (E)
♠  A 10 7 6
♥  K 7 3
♦  A 8 2
♣  Q J 9

If one finesse fails Declarer will need the second one to gather enough tricks.   So which finesse should be taken first ?
The possible danger lies in North holding 5 hearts (the suit breaking 5-3). Therefore the ♣ finesse has to be taken first while there still is a stopper in Dummy.
At trick 3 Declarer leads a small diamond to Dummy's A♦, then (at trick 4) leads Dummy's Q♣ for a direct finesse. North wins the trick with his K♣ and leads another , won by Dummy's A♥.

If Opponents' are split 5-3 South will have no hearts left in his hand.
Declarer therefore cashes his ♣ tricks ending up in his own hand, then leads his Q♠ for a direct finesse. If the finesse fails and South wins the trick he either can not lead hearts or if he can the are split 4-4 and Opponents will only make two heart tricks in total.

Conclusion
When a contract is threatened by one Opponent holding a long suit, give the long suited Opponent the lead first while you still hold a stopper in his suit.



(Down - Up - Top) IBR 15.4 - Deals 133 - 144 Deals 133 to 144 are examples of bidding as outlined in this lesson. (Up - Top - Links page)
© 2013 Michael Furstner