West leads the ♠7 (fourth best). You are playing in a sectional tournament where the level of play is not always expert.
At trick one, East plays the ♠2, count. Plan the play.
It looks like the cat is out of the bag as far as the spade suit is concerned. West certainly knows that spades are running, and if East uses the rule of 11, East may suspect the same. In other words, it is very risky, even against weak opponents to try to steal a diamond trick. For all you know, West has the ♦A!
A better idea is to play for four club tricks to go along with four hearts and a spade. If clubs are 3–3 or the jack is singleton or doubleton, you can pick up the suit by playing the
ace-king, and if the jack falls, cross to the ♣10 and chalk up nine tricks.
But it doesn’t cost anything to lead the ♣8 from dummy. Some East players with J–9–x–x–(x) might cover. Why not give East a chance to make a mistake? That’s how matchpoint tournaments are won. If East covers, win and cash a second club honor. If West shows out, you have a marked finesse against East’s jack. If West follows, enter dummy with a heart and lead the ♣10. Chances are that East has the jack and will cover. If East doesn’t cover, you have to decide whether East started with 9–x–x (!) or J–9–x–x. The smart money is on J–9–x–x.
West leads the ♣Q. You win the ♣A and cross to the ♠A, only to see West discard a heart. Now what?
With a certain spade loser, you must somehow avoid a diamond loser. How?
Your best bet is to try to strip East of clubs and hearts, toss him in with a spade, force a diamond return, and then get the diamonds right. In order to do this you must find East with
a likely three hearts and a 3=3=3=4 or a 3=3=4=3 pattern. (No writing in to mention that East might have a 3=3=5=2 pattern. That places West with seven hearts and six clubs. Please.)
Start with a heart ruff, club ruff, heart ruff, club ruff, heart ruff (yes, you are ruffing your ace) and ruff dummy’s last club. Assuming East has followed to everything and does not have a fifth club, cash the ♠K and exit a spade. Regardless of which diamond East leads, your percentage shot is to play for split honors. A strong East will normally lead an honor from any three-card holding. If East started with four diamonds, you can’t go wrong because West started with a singleton.
If East started with five clubs and two diamonds, you can’t exit with your last spade as East will cash a club. You are reduced to playing East for the ♦Q J doubleton. You hope it won’t come to that.