Mike’s Advice


Another Different Suit Combination

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

West led the ♠Q, the unbid suit, and South took all of a few seconds to go down. He won the ♠K in his hand and finessed the ♠10 at trick two. South intended to lead hearts now. After the defense takes the A, South is in a position to take the rest of the tricks if the defense fails to cash their clubs. Three spades, five hearts, and five possible diamonds actually adds up to thirteen tricks.

But something happened. The ♠10 lost to East’s jack. East continued spades, West showing out, and the result was that South did not get his 12 tricks. Instead he got seven.

“Wha’d you have?” asked North. “Don’t you do better if you set up the hearts?”

I don’t know what you would say to North after that comment, but it won’t help.

More important is the question of making 3NT. It turns out that the diamonds divide 5-1, so that will be a serious obstacle to 3NT on most lines of play.

Do you see a 100% line?

At trick one, put on a show for the kibitzers. Win the ♠A and dump the king on it. This looks expensive but you will survive nicely. After taking the first trick in dummy, you play on hearts and later you will be able to force an entry to dummy in spades. You will have nine tricks at minimum. Your nine tricks won’t look like anyone else’s but at least you will make your contract.

Should South play this way? That’s a fair question. Since you are cold for 10 tricks if West has led from the QJx of spades, playing for the extra tricks feels like a good thing. Against that is the fact that your side bid the other three suits and West may have chosen this moment to lead a doubleton ♠Q based on the fact that he had nothing else worth leading. Further, you have to judge whether making three notrump is a good thing. That is harder to do. Four hearts looks like it will take 10 tricks but it is not assured. There are things that can happen to a heart contract that declarers won’t like. Making nine sure tricks might be a fair result. It certainly will be a fair result if West has decided on the ♠Q from Qx. Lastly, if you happen to be playing IMPs, taking the sure route is probably a very good idea.

I am not including all four hands here because the intent of this article is to show a sure route to nine tricks against any layout of the spade suit after West’s lead of the queen.