West leads the ♣6. East plays the 4, standard count. Say you start with the ♥A and ♥J, East discarding a spade. Take over from here.
Cash the ♦A Q. If West follows to both diamonds (as in the first diagram), West is almost certainly
1=5=2=5. Why? Because of East’s play of the ♣4 at trick one, which is either a singleton or from 4–3 or 4–2 doubleton. (East cannot have three clubs with the ♣4 being the lowest.)
At this point, cash two more hearts, discarding a diamond, and lead a spade hoping that West has a blank ace or that East ducks holding the ♠A and a second club.
What about testing diamonds playing a third diamond first? This only works when West started with a 0=5=3=5 pattern, meaning that East has opened a weak two-bid in second seat with seven spades headed by the A–K–J–9! The real danger in playing a third diamond is that West might unblock the blank ♠A reducing you to rubble. The bottom line is that when East has two clubs, you must find West with the blank ♠A to make this contract legitimately.
If West shows out on the second diamond (as in the second diagram), West figures to have a 1=5=1=6 pattern, giving East a 6=1=5=1 pattern. When East has no more clubs, you are in great shape. Cash two hearts, discarding a diamond, and lead a spade. Say East has the ♠A K J 9 x x (the best scenario for East–West as West cannot afford to win the trick, because he’ll be forced to lead a club) and exits with a diamond to dummy’s
now lone king. You counter by leading a second spade to East. East cashes two diamonds as you discard your two remaining clubs. East’s last card is the ♠J and yours is the ♠Q, your ninth trick. East takes four defensive tricks, but four is not enough.
Thanks to Phil Clayton of Mission Viejo CA for this one.
1. 15-17 HCP
West leads the ♦J. East wins the ♦A and returns the ♦9 to your king and West’s 10. At trick three, you lead a heart to the 8, jack and ace. East continues with the ♦Q. Plan the play from here.
Ruff low. There is no point in ruffing high or discarding a spade. If West has two diamonds and you ruff high, West, with an almost certain ♥K 9 8 (the bidding marks West with three hearts), will discard to promote two trump tricks and a one-trick set (three hearts, a spade and a diamond). If you discard a spade, a fourth diamond will still leave you vulnerable to a trump promotion if you ruff high or to an overruff if you ruff low. The bottom line is that you must play West for at least three diamonds and ruff the third diamond
The key play comes next. Cross to a club, lead dummy’s remaining diamond, and pitch your spade assuming East produces the expected ♦8. By cutting the communications between the East–West hands, you have avoided a trump promotion play and will wind up making the contract, losing two hearts and two diamonds. Failure to make this loser-on-loser “scissors” play means down one and minus 200, the death result on a partscore hand.
Thanks to Barry Rigal of New York City for this one.