Gabriel Chagas (BRZ)
Gabriel Chagas (BRZ)

” When You have to develop a shaky suit, consider whether you can prepare for an intra-finesse by ducking with an 8 or 9 on the first round”

Not easy, you might think, living and working in Brazil, to force yourself, in popular estimation, into the ranks or the top half-dozen players in the world; our third entrant, Gabriel Chagas, has done this in just a few years, playing mostly with Pedro Paulo Assumpçao.

Chagas was 23 when he first appeared on the world bridge scene at Deauville, in the 1968 Team Olympiad. After representing Brazil in numerous Bermuda Bowl, he won the Team Olympiad at Monte Carlos in 1976 and followed this with outstanding performances in the annual event, the Sunday Times Pairs, winning by a big margin in 1979.

Gabriel holds a master’s degree in actuarial mathematics. Fluent in Portugese, Spanish, Italian, French and English, familiar with German, Russian and Japanese, and able to understand, Swedish, Dutch, Hebrew, Hungarian, Tagalog, Arabic, Icelandic, and a few others, he must be by far the most cultivated bridge master in a linguistic sense; with his serious but friendly look, he is also one of the most popular.

“The finesse is commonly regarded as one of the humbler forms of play, but it sometimes requires quite a lot of imagination. This is especially true of the Intra-Finesse, a play which I am very fond. This diagram shows one common type of Intra-Finesse:

                                                   Q 8 5 3

                                        J 7                     K 10 4

                                                   A 9 6 2

The bidding has given you quite a good idea of the layout of this suit. To hold yourself to one loser, you play small towards the dummy and finesse the 8!. East will make the 10 but later you will enter the North hand and lead the Queen, pinning West’s Jack. Well, this was an Intra-Finesse.

Here’s how an Intra-Finesse can arise in practical play:

Spade SuitQ 9 2
Heart Suit6 5 4
Diamond SuitA Q 3
club suitK 8 4 3
Spade Suit10 6           
Heart Suit10 9 8 2
Diamond Suit5 4
club suit10 9 7 5 2
Spade SuitK J 7
Heart SuitA K Q J
Diamond Suit10 9 7 6
club suitQ J
Spade SuitA 8 5 4 3 
Heart Suit7 3
Diamond SuitK J 8 2  
club suitA 6

South plays in 4Spade Suitafter East has opened a strong 1NT. West leads the Heart Suit10 and South ruffs the third round. Knowing that East has the Spade SuitK, South leads low to the Spade Suit9, losing to the Spade SuitJ.

South wins the club return and takes a second and third round of this suit to test the distribution. With East showing out, South decides to place him with three trumps. So after ruffing the third club, he crosses with a diamond and leads the Spade SuitQ.

The Veteran Intra-Finesse:

Now, you find yourself in 4Heart Suiton the next deal after a club overcall by West.

Spade SuitK J 2
Heart SuitA 9 2
Diamond SuitK 9 6 2
club suit9 6 3
Spade Suit8 6           
Heart SuitJ 5
Diamond SuitQ 10 3
club suitK Q J 10 8 7
Spade Suit10 9 7 5 4
Heart SuitQ 10 7 6
Diamond Suit8 4
club suit5 4
Spade SuitA Q 3 
Heart SuitK 8 4 3
Diamond SuitA J 7 5  
club suitA 2

You duck the first club and West continues the suit. As a 3-3 trump break is unlikely, you lead a low heart towards the dummy, and when West follows with the 5 you finesse the 9!

East wins with the 10 and switches to a spade, confirming that the clubs are 6-2. You cash the trump Ace, and when this collects the Jack from West you pick up East’s remaining trumps by finessing the 8.

On the fourth trump you throw, not a club, but a diamond from dummy. The successful intra-finesse has brought you to nine tricks but now you must establish a diamond for game.

As you are wide open in clubs you lead a low diamond, intending to finesse the Diamond Suit9 into East’s hand. West however, inserts the Diamond Suit10. You win with dummy’s Diamond SuitK and cash the remaining spades. When West shows out on the third spade you have a perfect count. West began with: six clubs, two hearts and two spades, and therefore three diamonds.

You need no more finesses. On the third spade West is forced down to two diamonds and the club suitJ. You therefore lead dummy’s losing club, throwing West in and forcing him to lead into your diamond tenace.

This ending was very satisfying, but you would never have got there without the aid of the intra-finesse i the trump suit.

My bridge tip: “Therefore is that whenever you have to develop a shaky suit, and especially when this suit is trump, you should consider wheter you can prepare for an intra-finesse by ducking with and 8 or a 9 on the first round.”

‘Happy finessing’

Marcelo Castello Branco, Christiano Fonseca; Pedro Castello Branco, Gabriel Chagas, Gabino Cintra, Adelstano Porto d'Ave y Pedro Paulo Assumpçao.
Marcelo Castello Branco, Christiano Fonseca; Pedro Castello Branco, Gabriel Chagas, Gabino Cintra, Adelstano Porto d’Ave y Pedro Paulo Assumpçao.

There are many variations of this theme. Most players know what to do with this combination:

J 9
A 8 7 5 4 2

The only chance to hold the losers to one in to lead low and finesse the 9 (unless West plays an honour). If this loses to the King or Queen your next play is the Jack from dummy, pinning the 10 if West started with 10-x

When two intermediate cards are missing you can achieve surprising results when both are favourably placed:

J 9 4
10 8 K Q 6 3
A 7 5 2

You lead low from hand, covering West’s 8 with the 9 and losing to the king or queen. On the next round you lead the jack, pinning the 10 and you still hold the major tenace, 7-5 over East’s 6-3. It may be noted that in many of these situations it is good deceptive play for the second hand to play his higher card on the first round, just as it is usually correct to play the jack for J-9.

There is a different type of Intra-finesse (Chagas’s description has passed into the language) that is very seldom mentioned in bridge literature. Consider this deal:

West dealer North-South Vulnerable

Spade Suit8 4
Heart Suit9 3
Diamond Suit9 7 6 4 3
club suitA 10 9 7
Spade SuitQ 9 7 3           
Heart SuitQ 10 8 6 4 2
Diamond Suit5 2
club suit4
Spade SuitJ 5
Heart SuitA J 5
Diamond SuitK J 10 8
club suitQ 6 5 3
Spade SuitA K 10 6 2 
Heart SuitK 7
Diamond SuitA Q 
club suitK J 8 2

The Auction:

West   North    East   South  
Pass
Pass 1Diamond Suit
Double
1Spade Suit Pass Pass 2NT    
Pass 3NT End

Contract: 3NT

Lead: Heart Suit6

Spurning his partner’s suit, West leads the Heart Suit6. East wins and returns a heart.Assuming that the diamond finesse will be right, South needs to make four tricks in clubs. Because of the entry situation, he must lead the club suitJ – no other card.

Having overtaken with the club suitA, he leads the club suit10, unblocking with the club suit8. Then he can make four club tricks and still be in dummy for the diamond finesse.

Overleaf is an extremely difficult hand with the same theme which someone showed me recently:

Dealer: South

North-South Vulnerable

Spade SuitQ
Heart SuitA 10 9 4 3
Diamond Suit9 8 7
club suitK J 6 2
Spade SuitA J 10 9 7 6 5 3
Heart SuitK J 8 5
Diamond Suit
club suit7
Spade Suit4 2
Heart SuitQ 7 2
Diamond SuitK 10 6 4
club suitQ 10 5 4
Spade SuitK 8 
Heart Suit6
Diamond SuitA Q J 5 3 2
club suitA 9 8 3

The Auction:

West   North    East   South  
   
1Diamond Suit
1Spade Suit 2Heart Suit Pass 3Diamond Suit    
4Spade Suit 5Diamond Suit Double End 

Contract: 5Diamond Suitdoubled

West begins with Spade SuitA and another spade. How can South make his contract of 5Diamond Suitdoubled?

Even with a sight of all the cards, you might battle at this for hours without striking the right answer.

Everything hangs on the pips in clubs. South wins the second spade in hand, discarding a heart form dummy and nothing East’s echo. If West holds two clubs, or the singleton 10 or Queen, the contract is lay down, because declarer can pick up the trumps without loss and make three tricks in clubs.

The critical situation is when West has the singleton club suit7. Preparing for this, South leads the club suit8 at trick three. Seeing West’s club suit7, he plays low from dummy. East wins with the 10club suitand exits with a heart to dummy Heart SuitA.

Declarer now plays diamonds until East covers. South wins and leads club suit9 to dummy club suitK . Now, with club suitJ – club suit6 in dummy, club suitA – club suit3 in hand, he can pick up East’s club suitQ – club suit5 and still be in position to finesse again in diamonds.