Here is another Frank Stewart example. I am showing only the N-S hands since this is a declarer problem.

N-S vulnerable, the bidding could have been 1NT-3NT; E/W pass throughout (but the actual N-S bid 1c and 1d before going into NT).

The opening lead was the Jack of spades. Declarer had five tricks in the majors, and needed four more from the minors.



My choice of play is to win in the dummy, lead the jack of clubs and let it ride, then finesse to the AQ of clubs. This wins the four needed tricks when clubs are split 3-2, and also when the clubs are 4-1 with the king in East.

Declarer chose to win in hand, and finesse for three diamond tricks, in addition to the ace of clubs. This play works best when West has the diamond queen (it doesn't matter who has the ace). It also has "additional equity" when East has the queen and plays it on the first trick. Then South will revert to the club finesse (which wins as the cards lie).

But in the problem, one of two Easts played the ace of diamonds on the first finesse, concealing his Qx. South lost time by taking the "marked" finesse and lost the "race" for tricks.


  1. Against a good player who will routinely false card, should I train myself to ignore potentially false signals, or at least limit them to the values from the principle of "restricted choice"?

  2. Should I consider using a "mixed" strategy against a good player, randomly "observing" him at some times, and sometimes getting "caught," while ignoring him at other times and not reacting?

  3. Should Stewart have pointed out that the club finesse was the superior play? (I didn't get that message from the article but believe this to be the case.)

  • 1
    IMO, correct play is CA and C to J. If that wins with LHO having 4 clubs, switch to diamonds hoping DQ is onside. Club finesse is definitely not superior than diamond finesse because of the club break requirement.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 3:05
  • There are a lot of situations with mandatory false cards. Against good opponents, one should assume they are false cards.
    – Tvde1
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 7:59

1 Answer 1


First, let's address some vital points:

East has a nearly complete picture of the hand as soon as his partner plays the D6 at Trick 2:

  • South has exactly 3 Diamonds because Partner is echoing to show on even number.

  • West has 5 Spades because Declarer didn't hold up the suit at Trick 1.

  • All missing high cards are in South for his 15-17 rebid of 1 NT.

  • East knows that West holds Club Nine because that is why the Diamond suit is being played at Trick 2 instead of the Clubs.

  • The only outstanding question is whether South is 35 or 44 in the round Suits (Hearts & Clubs). However this is irrelevant at this time because South requires at least two Diamond tricks for his contract; unless East wins with the Q to alert Declarer to the bad Diamond lie.

Hence East's win of the Ace at Trick 2 is a mandatory falsecard; all near-expert and better players will make the play, as it is the only way to set the contract. An expert East will still make this play, smooth as silk, with doubleton AQ of diamonds.

Let's answer these questions one at a time:

  1. No. Count the hand and learn (at least the common) mandatory false card situations. The Diamond line illustrated here is 67% (50% for the D finesse + 68%/4 for all onside Kx Club holdings).

  2. No. See above. There are times to adopt a mixed strategy in Bridge play, but this is not one of them. Such cases are most common when holding two equivalent cards (such as a QJ holding), and one should be prepared to decide, smoothly, which one to play in a way that your opponent cannot predict. See Restricted Choice.

  3. No - because that requires a column of its own. CA followed by low to the CJ is 74% (68% for a 3-2 break + 30%/5 for all singleton CK in a 4-1 break). Leading the CJ for a finesse is just the same 68% as the Diamond line, but with risk of additional undertricks.

Finally, to answer your question: East's play is a mandatory false card. When playing against experts, you must expect mandatory false cards to be made.

However, even World Champions occasionally miss a mandatory false card if pressured early enough in the hand, as this hand from the 1976 Bermuda Bowl Final demonstrates. After leading a Heart to South's low ruff. West failed to rise with KC on the low Club lead by Declarer.

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  • My understanding is that clubs require a 3-2 break (68%) without the finesse. That is, if W has K98 and E T5, the K will capture, say the jack, S will win the return, clear clubs with AQ, and score his two "long" clubs, and need no diamond tricks. That's a better shot than the diamond finesse. Or am I missing something?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 5:33
  • Corrected - I was distracted by your Club finesse chatter. Declarer needs at least one of CT, C9 or C8 before the finesse buys any (let alone appreciable) increase in odds over cashing CA and leading low to the J. Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 11:49

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