A Different Suit Combination

 Dlr: South ♠ 8 6 5 4 2 Vul: None ♥ 8 7 3 ♦ A 9 3 ♣ 10 5 ♠ A K Q J 10 ♥ A K Q ♦ Q 7 4 ♣ A Q
 West North East South 2♣ Pass 2♦ Pass 2♠ Pass 3♠ Pass 4♣ Pass 4♦ Pass 4NT Pass 5♦ Pass 5NT Pass 6♠ All Pass

South opened 2♣ and North bid 2, waiting. South might have rebid 3NT but he felt that if there was a spade fit, there might be a slam in spades. North raised to 3♠ and South made a cue bid, followed by asking for aces. South then asked for kings and North signed off in 6♠, which said he had no kings.

South thought for a second about whether North had enough to raise spades and then to cue-bid, but it occurred to him that it was more important to concentrate on the play rather than the bidding. Bidding discussions could wait.

One of the first things South saw was that in spite of dummy having five trumps, there was no way to get to dummy other than via the A. Given the paucity of entries to dummy, South was pleased to get a club lead.

South won the ♣K with the ace and played two rounds of trumps, West having one and East two. On the second spade, West discarded a small club.

Next South played three rounds of hearts. West had only one of these, marking him with eleven cards in the minors. East, in turn, was marked at this point with two spades, six hearts, and at least one club.

Sooner or later South was going to have to make a play in diamonds. The easiest of these plays would be to lead to the ace and lead back to the queen. If East has the K, slam will make.

Does East have the K?

Go back and review the bidding. There are some clues there that you should note.

The first clue comes after North cue-bid 4. Many East players make gratuitous doubles when they have the king of this suit. This double often helps West with his opening lead. East might have doubled 4 and he didn’t. Definitely a clue of some substance. Then, on the next round, South asked for aces and North bid 5. Again, East had the opportunity to double a diamond bid. And again, East did not do that. Against many opponents these two omissions add up to a pretty good clue that East does not have the span style=”color:#ff0000;”>♦K. This is the kind of judgment issue you sometimes have to deal with in the play of the hand.

Let’s assume you trust your instincts and feel that East does not have the K. Perhaps East passed with a level of boredom that suggested he had no interest in this auction at all.

If you decide that West has the K, what can you do about it?

Here is a helpful question. You know East has two spades and six hearts. Which minor suit do you think he will have more of? More clubs or diamonds?

Given you have six diamonds and four clubs, it is likely that East has three or four clubs and one or two diamonds.

Here is where all this is leading. If you decide that West has four or more diamonds to the king, you have a couple of possible plays. One play is to cash your second club winner and then lead a diamond towards dummy. If West has the KJ10(xx) he has to play the 10. You allow him to win and now he is endplayed.

If, however, West has K10 or KJ, your play won’t work because East has the jack or 10 of diamonds. West will be able to play low and now will get two diamond tricks later.

I am offering this hand and thinking to help you see the possibility of the following line.

Lead the Q. West will cover and you will win with the ace. If East plays the 10 or jack of diamonds, you come back to your hand to lead a diamond towards the nine. West probably has the missing honor but it doesn’t really matter. If East has it, he will win and because he is out of diamonds, he will have to give you a sluff and a ruff.

If East plays a small diamond, you lead the little diamond from dummy. If East started with the Jx or the 10x of diamonds, the defense won’t be able to take their two tricks because the diamond suit will be blocked.

Here is the entire hand.

 Dlr: South ♠ 8 6 5 4 2 Vul: None ♥ 8 7 3 ♦ A 9 3 ♣ 10 5 ♠ 3 ♠ 9 7 ♥ 4 ♥ J 10 9 6 5 2 ♦ K J 8 5 2 ♦ 10 6 ♣ 9 8 7 6 4 2 ♣ K J 3 ♠ A K Q J 10 ♥ A K Q ♦ Q 7 4 ♣ A Q

I expect to get a lot of letters pointing out other lines of play. It is not my intent to say that the line I showed here is perfect. It is, in fact, rather odd. But given the facts from the bidding, it becomes reasonable. Something to think about.

A few other things happened on this hand.

West might have bid 2NT over 2♣. Some would. Would you?

West might have led his singleton heart instead of a club. It turns out that a heart lead would have been better since South does not have enough entries to take a finesse in clubs. But, that aside, the following rule is a good one.

RULE
If your opponents ask for aces and then ask for kings, it is assumed that they have all the aces. Do not lead a singleton against one of these sequences because you won’t get a ruff. What may happen (it does not happen here) is that when you lead a singleton, it helps declarer when he is missing a queen or jack in the suit you are leading.