Opening lead: ♦10. You play low from dummy and East rises with the ace and returns the ♣8, West playing the ♣9. Plan the play.
This is a touchy contract and you have to assume some decent suit breaks. For openers, a short suit lead tends to indicate that trumps are breaking evenly. Also, the usual technique on touchy hands is to try to set up a long suit. Translation: Go after diamonds.
Win the club shift and ruff a diamond low: You need to find West with a second diamond. Assuming West follows, cash the ♠A, discarding a club, and now three rounds of hearts ending in dummy. Assuming hearts are 3–2, lead the ♦J discarding a black card. After East wins the ♦Q, dummy is high except for a club loser. Notice there is still a trump in dummy to ensure getting to the established diamonds. Looks easy, but this is a layout that many declarers (not you, of course) are likely to botch.
It doesn’t matter what East returns at trick two, the contract is still on ice. Say East returns a spade, usually a good idea to try to force dummy to ruff when long suit establishment looms. Win the ♠A, discarding a club, and lead a club. West must win or else it is too easy. If West plays low, dummy wins, a low diamond is ruffed low, three rounds of trumps ending in dummy and now the ♦J is played giving up a trick to the ♦Q. Dummy still has a trump to get back to the the established diamonds, so all that is lost is a club and two diamonds.
Back up and have West win the ♣A and exit a low spade, forcing dummy to ruff. Your reply after ruffing the spade is to ruff a diamond low and play the king–ace of hearts, leaving a low trump in dummy and the bare ♥Q in your hand. Now the ♦J. If East plays low, discard a spade. If West ruffs, you have two dummy entries (a club and a trump), enough to ruff a diamond and return to dummy. If East covers the ♦J, ruff with the ♥Q, enter dummy with a club and play good diamonds, losing a third defensive trick to the high trump, but still having a tiny trump in dummy to get back to the diamonds.
West leads the ♣Q. Plan the play.
Though it may look right to lead up to the ♠K, hoping to avoid the heart finesse if the ♠A is with West, it isn’t right. At all.
Given that West has led the ♣Q and probably has the jack as well, what does that leave East for his first‑seat 1♣ bid? Well, it is hard to piece together an opening bid that does not contain both the ♠A and the ♥K unless East has something like:
♠Q J x ♥K x x ♦ — ♣K J x x x x x.
That would leave West with:
♠A 10 9 x x x x ♥x x x ♦x ♣Q x
Not everyone’s choice for a 3♠ response.
In any case, given the likelihood of both the ♠A and the ♥K with East, ruff both clubs in dummy and run off each and every trump, reducing to a low spade and two low hearts in your hand, dummy remaining with the blank ♠K and the ♥A Q. What can East save? Remember, it is likely that East started with three spades, so it should be relatively easy to know what three cards East has left. You already have a provisional count on spades. You will see if West follows to three clubs and you will know who has the missing trump.
- If you think East has reduced to the ♠A and K–x of hearts, exit a spade and wait for the heart return into your ace–queen.
- If you think East has blanked the ♥K, show East that he is not playing with children by crossing to the ♥A.