A Bridge Phantasmagoria




The social player loves a finesse and feels that all is well with the world when it succeeds, and just damned bad luck when it fails.

The seasoned tournament player casts a jaundiced eye on the finesse, and will go to all sorts of extremes to avoid it. The supreme satisfaction cometh when one is able to uncover or create The Infallible Finesse - the finesse that cannot fail. What a joy that is.

East-West game: West deals


S AQ104
H Q6
C AJ104


S 96
H AK1053
D K9
C K982


S KJ8732
H 9872
D J8
C 6


S 5
H J4
D 1076543
C Q753


Playing five card majors, West opened One Heart and North doubled. East Pre-empted with Three Hearts and South with little excuse except a hatred of being pre-empted, bid Four Diamonds which North raised to game.

West kicked off with the ace and king of hearts and switched to the nine of spades. South was not unaware that he required a large slice of luck to make his game contract. \He won the ace of spades and ruffed a spade. Things looked a bit rosier when he finessed in trumps and both opponents followed to the ace. He returned to hand with a second spade ruff, to which West gave a heart.

South was no mathematical genius, but he could count up to 13. East was marked with six spades and four hearts for his double raise. He had followed to two diamonds and ergo, he had but a singleton club. There were four chances to one that the singleton was not the king and anyway, West figured to have it for his opening bid.

The queen of clubs was now led and covered with the king and ace. South came to hand with a final spade ruff and led the three of clubs. When West followed with the deuce, South took The Infallible Finesse by playing the four. Contract made.

West cannot escape by inserting the eight, as South still has a trump entry to take a belated Infallible Finesse.

Our second example takes us to a higher level of card play in which West is presented with three options, all in the mode of “Felo de Se.”

Game all: South deals


S 10854
H K732
C K6


S K9
D 10983
C QJ107


S -
H 95
D K7642
C 985432


S AQJ7632
H AJ64
D 5



Bidding (East-West silent)




3S (forcing)





6S (end)


The jump to Five Spades expressed a willingness for South to bid the slam if his spades were strong, and naturally South duly obliged.

South won the club lead and noted possible finesses in three suits. However, with eleven spades, the odds favoured the drop and so he laid down the ace of spades to confirm a trump loser.

He had eleven sure winners and a successful finesse in either hearts or diamonds would see him home, although the position in diamonds was complicated in as much as there was a choice between a straight finesse and a ruffing one. It struck him that if East had the king of diamonds and could be persuaded to play it after the ace followed by the queen, he would be home and dry.

Seeing nothing better, he played a diamond to the ace and after taking a heart discard on the king of clubs, he tabled the queen of diamonds. East had anticipated this possibility and followed small “in Tempo” and South shirked the ruffing finesse. He ruffed and fell back on the heart finesse to go one down.

It was not all that easy to spot, but there was an opportunity here to create the Infallible Finesse. At trick three the declarer should cross to the king of hearts and cash the king of clubs. This is the point where the crucial play has to be made. The discard has to be the singleton diamond and not the natural one of a heart.

The lead is given to West with a trump and that worthy is faced with three options, all fatal. A club is trumped in dummy while South discards a heart and a second heart will go on the ace of diamonds. A heart is into the jaws of the ace-jack and a diamond gives The Infallible Finesse. If West has the king, the jack will win and if East has the king, it is ruffed away and the two diamond winners take care of two hearts.

A similar opportunity was lost on our third hand.

Game all: North deals.


H KQ96
D A107
C Q105


S 862
D Q9653
C AJ84


S Q74
H 7
D KJ842
C 9762


S A1053
H A1085432
D -
C K3


North opened a strong no-trump and when his partner jumped to Three Hears, he rebid Four Diamonds to show strong support and a diamond control, but denying a club control. South now bid a direct Six Hearts.

West led a small diamond which South ruffed in his own hand. A trump to dummy cleared the trumps and a club was led. South hoped that East would have the ace of clubs and duck. In that case the king would win and the other club be discarded on the ace of diamonds. Too bad. The king lost to the ace and West smoothly returned the suit. South’s nerve failed and he put up the queen. Later he misguessed the spade queen to go one down.

North was anything but pleased. “This was a case for the Infallible Finesse” he said. “Having entered dummy at trick two, you discard a club on the ace of diamonds and ruff a diamond to eliminate that suit. Return to dummy on a trump and play a club.”

If East has the ace and wins it, any return gives you your contract. As it happens, West wins the ace. A spade from him gives you the Infallible Finesse and a diamond gives you a ruff and discard. Finally a club also gives an Infallible Finesse in as much as you can play the ten with no risk whatsoever.”

“Sorry partner” was all South could say.


by Carl Dickel