Three-Way Finesse?

Some suit combinations, AJx opposite K10x, for example, tend to allow for a guess as to which way to finesse for a missing honor. These are called ``Two-way finesses.'' Every once in awhile, we have to play these suits to take the finesse once each way. For the first time, I found a suit in which I had to take a finesse one way, then the other, and then back again the first way!

Playing in a sectional pairs event with an intermediate partner, I was fourth to speak and picked up

 S:A10 H:K1053 D:AQJ1064 C:3
Dealer, on my left, passed, and partner opened 3NT. We were playing that 3NT opening bids show a solid seven-card minor with no side Aces or Kings. RHO passed and I did, too, somewhat reluctantly. 6C: could be cold, or it could be down one off the top. Notrump rates to be our best game, but playing it from partner's hand is not good for us. LHO reopened with a confident 4H:, posing me with a severe bidding problem.

I think it is best is to double, but LHO looked pretty confident about his bid. It seems as if he's been sandbagging. If I don't double, what shall I do? 4NT seems wrong; if it makes, so will 6C: from my side, assuming they don't get a ruff. 5C: is out of the question; we'll get a bad matchpoint score regardless of whether or not it makes. Finally, I decide that one does not win matchpoint events by sitting by idly, so I leap to 6C:, knowing that my bidding was inconsistent, but amusing, nonetheless.

S: 5
H: 94
D: 532
C: AKQJ976
S: A10
H: K1053
D: AQJ1064
C: 3
I get the lead of a small spade to the King and Ace and draw trump, West's having a singleton. From hand, I pitch two hearts and a diamond and West pitches three hearts, echoing. Crossing my fingers, I take the diamond finesse. It holds and West shows out on the first round! What is going on here? West has twelve major suit cards and passed in first chair? He must have 5701 or he might've tried bidding spades at some point. That means that East is void in hearts and I can lose a trick to him safely. Since I need the diamond suit, but have no more entries to my hand, I must take the ``ruffing finesse'' in diamonds, floating a diamond honor (not the Ace) around to East. He considers this for a moment and plays low.

Joyful! This finesse worked in both directions. I cannot afford to take it again in this direction, so I ruff a spade and take it again back in the original direction. The D:A gives me a pitch for my losing hearts, so I make all the tricks.

Copyright © 1995 Jeff Goldsmith