Playing the Odds

Dlr: South ♠ A J 10
Vul: N-S Q J 10 9 3
A K Q
♣ 10 9
♠ 8
A 6
J 10 9 7 4
♣ A K Q 5 4

 

West North East South
1
2(1) Dbl 3♠(2) 4♣
Pass 4♠ Pass 5♣
Pass 6 All Pass

(1) At least 5-5 in the majors
(2) Weak

West starts with the ♠K against your slam. How do you plan to bring this contract home?

Solution

Declarer won with dummy’s ♠A and cashed the A and K, noting that West followed suit to both.

West’s overcall had promised at least 5-5 in the majors, so West had at most one club. Declarer saw that there was no point in playing the A and another heart as that approach would succeed only if West had three trumps: Otherwise, West would play low on the second heart and let East ruff.

The issue facing declarer, therefore, was the identity of West’s third minor-suit card. One option was an immediate club finesse for the jack, but, declarer found a good way of minimizing the risk that West would win a finesse with the singleton ♣J. He left the last trump outstanding and led the ♠J from dummy, discarding a club on it. West won the ♠Q and could have returned:

  1. A spade: Declarer would have discarded a heart, drawn the remaining trump and finessed clubs.
  2. A heart: Declarer would have won in dummy, discarded another club and drawn the trump.
  3. A club: Declarer would have won, led a trump to dummy and discarded a heart on the spade.
  4. A trump: Declarer would won in dummy, discarded a heart, and taken the then-safe club finesse.

Only when West returned a spade would declarer have needed to riskily run the ♣10. Even then, East was a 5-1 favorite to hold the ♣J. The full deal:

Dlr: South ♠ A J 10
Vul: N-S Q J 10 9 3
A K Q
♣ 10 9
♠ K Q 6 5 2 ♠ 9 7 4 3
K 8 5 4 2 7
8 6 5 3 2
♣ 8 ♣ J 7 6 3 2
♠ 8
A 6
J 10 9 7 4
♣ A K Q 5 4
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