West leads the ♥4 (fourth best). East wins the ace and returns the ♥3 to your queen and West’s king. West exits with the ♥2 to the 10 and jack. How do you continue?
After three rounds of hearts, West figures to be looking at two winning hearts, the ♠A and the ♣K. The question is this: Do you need a double club finesse to make this contract? The answer is a resounding no!
If West started with four or more clubs (or the king-jack of clubs with any length), West is about to be squeezed in three suits without the risk of playing a club to the 10. Just cash five rounds of diamonds reducing all hands to five cards:
What five cards can West save? If West discards a heart, you can safely lead a club to the queen and set up your ninth trick in spades. If West has hung on to both hearts and the ♠A, West has two clubs left, so lead a club to the queen and hope the clubs come in. The only way you can go down on this deal is if West started with K–x or K–x–x of clubs, but in those cases leading a club to the 10 wouldn’t have worked either.
On this layout, West is squeezed in three suits when you run the diamonds.
Don’t expect to win any bidding competitions with this sequence. Here you are in a sketchy 3NT with 6♣ being odds on. Play well! You are going to have to bring back this result to your teammates.
West leads the ♠5 (fourth best). East plays the ♠K. Plan the play.
Start by winning the ♠A. It is dangerous (read “insane”) to attack clubs before testing the red suits first as they might produce the eight additional tricks you want, eliminating the need to score even one club trick. Besides, leading a club early and finding East with the ♣A (who will gleefully return a spade) won’t be pretty at the table to say nothing of the postmortem.
Start by attacking diamonds. If the ♦J is doubleton, cross to the 10 on the third round. You’ll have four diamond tricks because you have a dummy entry in the form of the ♥K. If the ♦J is not doubleton, play a third diamond to dummy. If they break 3–3, cash a fourth diamond and discard a club. Had you played hearts first, you would not be able to take four diamond tricks if the jack was doubleton.
Next, test the hearts. If they break 3–3, and the diamonds have come in for four tricks, you have nine tricks. Dreamer. Chances are that at least one of the red suits is not going to come in for four tricks. If East has guards in both red suits, you must find the ♣A with West.
If one of the red suits has come in for four tricks, you are still short a trick. If West has a guard in one of the red suits, your next play should be based on which defender is sharper. If you think West is the sharper defender, try to sneak the ♣J past East. If West has the ♣A, you are home free anyway, and East may err by ducking.
If, however, East is the sharper defender — someone who would never let you slip a club by holding the ace — throw West in with the red suit he has protected, discarding a club. If West has the ♣A, you are safe for nine tricks no matter what. If West doesn’t have the ♣A, he may err: Fearing a club shift, West may continue spades hoping partner has the jack, handing you the contract on a silver platter.