Tips For Card Play 18 : Retaining The Tenace

How should you play this combination?

Dummy : A J 6 3 2
You : K 8 7 5 4

There are only three cards missing and usually they will split 2-1 so that cashing your top cards will capture the ones missing. What if the missing cards split 3-0? Can you cope with that?

When you have winners in both hands, it may make a difference in which order you cash those winners, especially if you hold a tenace in one or both hands. A tenace is a combination of a high card and a lower card where the opponents hold the card(s) in-between.

Where you have a tenace, best technique is to cash your winners opposite the tenace first. If it is not clear whether you have a tenace, examine your holding and work out which card is nearest to being a winner. In the above example, the ace and king are winners and the card closest to being a winner is the jack. The A-J combination is the tenace. Therefore, cash the king first. This gains in this layout:

  • North
  • spadeA J 6 3 2
  • West
  • spadeQ 10 9
  • East
  • spade- - -
  • South
  • spadeK 8 7 5 4

When you play the king and East shows out, you can now finesse the jack so that West's queen will not make a trick. Had you played the ace first, destroying your tenace, you could no longer have captured the queen. Having a tenace gives you a possible finessing combination. By retaining the tenace, you keep alive your chance of taking a finesse if a bad break turns up. Retaining the tenace is an insurance move. If the suit breaks normally, you have lost nothing and if there is a bad break, your precaution saves you.

You should note that if the missing cards lie over your tenace, you cannot capture them anyway. If East held Q-10-9, East can make a trick no matter how you play. Since you can deal with a bad break only when the missing cards are under the tenace, cater for that position.


  • North
  • spadeK 10 3 2
  • West
  • spadeJ 9 8 5
  • East
  • spade7
  • South
  • spadeA Q 6 4

Here the tenace is North’s K-10 holding. Play ace and queen first. With the bad break revealed, you can finesse against West’s jack. If you play ace, then king, you lose a trick needlessly.

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