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The Smallest Finesse

I was declaring a normal 4 Hearts contract at a tournament recently in Cromwell, Connecticut. On the opening lead I took a finesse, losing to a king. Back came another side-suit, and I had to take another finesse, losing to another king. So far, I'm zero for two, and now I had to pick up the following trump suit, bearing in mind I could lose a maximum of one more trick if I were to make my game contract:

H: K 8 3 2

H: J 10 7 5

My thoughts at that time were along these lines: obviously I have to lose the ace of trumps, and just as obviously the queen had better be onside. What about the nine? I decided to try to "smother" the 9 singleton or doubleton on my right -- and towards that end, my plan was to lead the Jack from my hand, and then the 10 on the second round.

However, when I led the Jack, it was promptly covered by the Queen on my left, and it dawned on me that there was one additional lay-out of the suit that would allow me to pick up the entire suit for one loser -- Queen singleton on my left, a thought which hadn't occurred to me until that moment.

The first trick went J-Q-K-A. When I recovered the lead, I led the 8 from dummy (with the intention of letting it ride), and the play went 8-9-10-show-out. Now I went to dummy and the remaining cards were:

H: 3 2

         H: 6 4

H: 7 5

When I led from dummy, righty played the four and I finessed with the 5 to land my contract. I'm quite sure this is the smallest finesse I've ever taken.

Later I was discussing this hand with some expert players. It was clear that righty should not have covered the 8, as that exposed the whole situation when his partner would have to show out on that round. Playing low instead gives me a little bit of a guess -- perhaps the Q 9 could be doubleton on my left; then I should go up with my 10, dropping the 9.

This led me to ask the question, well, as a defender, is it automatic to cover declarer's Jack if you have Q 9? After all, declarer may be trying the old chestnut of leading the Jack hoping for a cover to resolve a two-way finesse for the Queen. Finally, it was suggested it might therefore be better for me to lead the 10 on the first round of the suit rather than the Jack, as I don't want lefty to cover with Q 9. Pretty interesting!

This was the entire layout of the suit:

         K 8 3 2

 Q                    A 9 6 4

         J 10 7 5

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