Your Best Chance

Dlr: South ♠ 8 3
Vul: Both 3 2
8 7 6 5 3
♣ A K 7 4
♠ A K J 10 9 4
Q 6 4
A K
♣ 8 6
West North East South
1♠
Pass 1NT Pass 3♠
Pass 4♠ All Pass

West leads the Q against your spade game. What is your plan for taking 10 tricks?

Solution

Declarer counted nine fairly sure winners – five trumps and the four tops in the minors. A 10th could come if East had started with the queen of trumps, but that was at best a 50% chance, even if one discounted the possibility of minor-suit ruffs. Declarer decided that a better approach was to try to ruff a heart in dummy.

Obviously, leading a heart from hand would succeed only if West was forced to win on both heart leads – an unlikely situation. If East could gain the lead twice – much more likely – he could lead trumps twice without sacrificing his side’s trump trick in the event that West held the guarded queen.

Declarer had such a possibility in mind, so he crossed to dummy with a club to the king to lead a low heart. At the table, East rose with the ace and played a low trump. Declarer took this with the ace, crossed to dummy with another club to the ace to lead a second heart. This would have been a winning play if East had had both the A and K along with two low trumps. Instead, West took declarer’s Q with the king and could not profitably continue with a trump. Out of clubs, West led another diamond. With no diamond ruff available to the defense, declarer was able to win with his K and ruff his remaining heart with dummy’s ♠8. After ruffing a diamond back to hand with a middle trump, declarer cashed the ♠K and conceded a trick West’s queen of trumps. Making four.

Notice that declarer’s approach would have succeeded any time there was no defensive ruff and trumps were 3-2. Had trumps been 4-1 with West, West could have continued with a second trump without cost. The full deal:

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