THE saying 'Eight Ever, Nine never' is one particular
example of a far more widespread idea. Looked at in
isolation and without the context of a whole hand:
i) If you are missing K-2, play for the drop.
ii) If you are missing K-3-2, play to finesse the Q.
iii) If you are missing Q-4-3-2, play for the drop.
iv) If you are missing Q-5-4-3-2, play to finesse
the J (having first cashed the A or the K in case
the Q is singleton).
v) If you are missing J-6-5-4-3-2, play for the drop.
vi) If you are missing J-7-6-5-4-3-2 play to finesse
the 10 (having, if possible first cashed two top
honours in case the J is singleton or
Note that if you are missing an even number of
cards, i), iii) and v), it is usually right to play for the
drop, though in all these cases consideration of
vacant spaces makes the decision close. If you are
missing an odd number of cards, ii), iv) and vi) it is
usually right to cash as many top cards as possible
and then take a finesse. This time the odds are more
Layout A Layout B
´ A K Q 10 ™ A K Q 10
´ 3 2 ™ 4 3 2
If you need four tricks with Layout A, cash the ´A
(in case East has the ´J singleton), return to your
hand in another suit and then finesse the ´10.
If you need four tricks with Layout B, play the ™A
K Q. Note that in addition to a 3-3 break, you also
succeed if the ™J is doubleton.
Layout C Layout D
t A K 10 3 2 ® A K 4 3 2
t Q 4 ® Q 10
Note that the reason for playing for the drop in C is
that you not only succeed on 3-3 breaks (36%) but
also with 4-2 breaks if the tJ is doubleton. This is
one third of 4-2 breaks. A 4-2 break is 48%, so tJ-x
occurs 16% of the time. The combined total of 52%
is marginally better than a finesse, which reinforces
that while playing for the drop is best, it is marginal.
Layout D is different. This time if you play your
three top clubs you have wasted your ®10. Double ton
®J-x is no longer helpful because the de fend er
with ®9-x-x-x has a winner. Playing for the drop in
this combination only succeeds if the suit breaks 33,
just 36% of the time. This is far worse than a
finesse so you should start by finessing the ®10.
How would you play E below to make four tricks?
Layout E Layout F
´ Q 10 3 2 ™ K J 3 2
´ K 7 6 5 4 ™ A 7 6 5 4
To answer, look at Layout F, which is the same as E
except that each of the honours in E has been up graded
by one rank. In F you would cash the ™A and
then the ™K, playing to drop the ™Q. Your way of
playing E is based on the same principle of 'nine
never'. At first sight that means you start with the ´K
and on the next round you play the ´Q playing for
the drop. But you can improve on that. Rather than
just lead out the ´K, lead up to the ´K. This gains
spectacularly if East has the singleton ´A because it
hits thin air rather than capturing your ´K.
In a similar manner, G is analogous to H:
Layout G Layout H
t Q 10 3 2 ® K J 3 2
t K 6 5 4 ® A 6 5 4
In Layout H you would cash the ®A and then
finesse the ®J. In G you should lead up to the tK
50 English Bridge June 2015 www.ebu.co.uk
Drop or Finesse? (Part III)by Andrew Kambites