Good Technique

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

1. Game-forcing inquiry
2. Fewer than three spades, fewer than four hearts, fewer than five diamonds.

Against your notrump game, West leads the J. What is your plan for taking nine tricks?

Solution

Declarer counted seven top tricks. His assessment was that the most likely way to generate the extra two tricks he needed was to develop long tricks in spades. If spades were 3-3, any play would work, but declarer saw that playing the ♠A, ♠K and another spade would waste his 9. Therefore, after winning the first trick with the A, he led a low spade from the table. East followed with the 2 and declarer played the 9 from hand. After that held, declarer cashed the ♠A and crossed to dummy with a low club to the ace. Next, he played the ♠K and another spade, throwing two low clubs from hand.

Upon winning the fourth round of spades with the queen, East shifted to the 9. Declarer covered with the 10 and West took the trick with the jack. Cashing the A was likely to give declarer an overtrick, so West exited with a heart. At this point declarer claimed nine tricks: four spades, three hearts and two clubs.

Declarer’s play in spades was best. It picks up four tricks against all 3-3 breaks, ♠Q J doubleton with West, East holding four spades with the queen and jack, plus a jack or queen doubleton with East. This offers slightly more than a 60% chance of making four tricks in spades – quite an improvement over the 39% offered by just banging out the ace, king and another spade. Not to mention that, on the given layout, banging out the the ♠A, ♠K another spade would have allowed East to lead diamonds through declarer’s hand twice. The full deal:

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