Another letter arrived, via certified mail, from the Society of Finessers, complaining that finesses never win in my columns.

"Dear Sir: We must again protest your disdain for the finesse, a valuable and time-honored technique that gains fully half the time - unless you're writing about it."

Experts strive to avoid fickle finesses, which lose as often as they win. But to show that I'm not biased, I offer today's deal. Against four hearts, West led the queen of spades, and South took the ace and drew trumps. He next cashed the ace of clubs and finessed with dummy's jack. On a lucky day he'd have made an overtrick, but as it was, East took the queen, and the defense cashed a spade and the A-K of diamonds for down one.

South could make his contract with a finesse, but he tried the wrong one. After he draws trumps, he should attack the diamonds.

If either defender had both the ace and king, South would want to lead the first diamond through that defender. But South can assume that the A-K are split. If West had both, his opening lead would have been a high diamond. If East, who didn't open the bidding, had both plus his marked king of spades, South could expect to find West with the queen of clubs, so South would be safe in any case.

South should lead a diamond to dummy's eight at Trick Four. When East must take the king, South loses a second diamond to the ace later. He can pitch two clubs from dummy on the J-10 of diamonds, assuring the contract.

Bridge by Frank Stewart

"Bridge" appears on H9 today.EndText