Test Your Play

1. IMPs

Dlr:
North
Vul:
Both
North
♠ K Q 5 4 3
A J 6 2
A 9 5
♣ A
South
♠ A 7 2
7 5 4
K Q J 10 7
♣ Q 5
West North East South
1♠ 2♠ (1) 3
Pass 6(!) All Pass

(1) Four hearts and six clubs.

West leads the 8. Plan the play.

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION
Dlr:
North
Vul:
Both
North
♠ K Q 5 4 3
A J 6 2
A 9 5
♣ A
West
♠ J 10 8 6
8 3
8 6 2
♣ 7 6 3 2
East
♠ 9
K Q 10 9
4 3
♣ K J 10 9 8 4
South
♠ A 7 2
7 5 4
K Q J 10 7
♣ Q 5

The best way to attack this layout is to start by assuming spades are not 3–2, because if they are, you can make an overtrick: A, ♣A, ♠A, club ruff, draw trumps and run the spades.

The best (and the winning) line is to duck the opening lead to East’s 9 and win the high heart return with dummy’s ace, and play the K Q.

If East shows out on the first or second diamond, spades are breaking, so cross to the A, return to the ♠A, draw trumps and run the spades.

If East follows to two diamonds, spades are not breaking 3–2. In fact, you have to assume that East has exactly two diamonds as you cannot make 6 if he has three diamonds and is void in spades. (With that holding, he might have doubled 6).

Cash the ♠A K Q, ruff a spade, establishing dummy’s fifth spade, and cross to the A leaving:

Dlr:
North
Vul:
Both
North
♠ 5
J 6
♣ A
West
♠ —
♣ 7 6 3 2
East
♠ —
Q 10
♣ K J
South
♠ —
7
10
♣ Q 5

When you play dummy’s spade (discarding a heart), East is caught in a ruffing squeeze. If he discards a heart, ruff a heart setting up dummy’s jack, and cross to the ♣A to cash it. If he discards a club, cash the ♣A, ruff a heart and the ♣Q is the 12th trick. In order to arrive at this ending, you must duck the opening lead to adjust the timing, your first key play.

Thanks to Tim Bourke, Australia, for this one.

2. IMPs

Dlr:
North
Vul:
Both
North
♠ A Q 7 5
A 7
K J 7 6 5 4
♣ A
South
♠ 8
10 5 3 2
A
♣ J 10 9 8 7 6 5

Contract 5♣.

Have you ever heard of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”? I’m sure you have. In any case don’t ask how the bidding went, because if you do, I won’t tell.

Before you embark on your line of play, having saddled you with this contract, I’ll give you this much: There are no singleton club honors hanging around, and the diamond queen is not singleton or doubleton.

West leads the Q. Plan the play.

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION
Dlr:
North
Vul:
Both
North
♠ A Q 7 5
A 7
K J 7 6 5 4
♣ A
West
♠ K 9 3 2
Q J 9 6
Q 9 2
♣ Q 4
East
♠ J 10 6 4
K 8 4
10 8 3
♣ K 3 2
South
♠ 8
10 5 3 2
A
♣ J 10 9 8 7 6 5

If you think big enough and are lucky enough, you can make 5♣. Win the A, cross to the A and take the spade finesse, which must work for you to have a chance. Assuming it does, discard a heart on the ♠A and another heart on the K. You’re getting closer to making a bridge column. Now ruff a diamond and hope they break 3–3. Assuming they do, cross to the ♣A and discard a heart on a high diamond. If the trump honors are divided, you are destined to lose only two trump tricks!

If the player with Q–x or K–x ruffs with an honor, you wind up losing another trick to the remaining honor. If the player with K–x–x or Q–x–x ruffs low, the two remaining honors crash when you lead a trump. You wind up losing two trump tricks. Period. Think big and never give up.

I actually had to play this deal in a recent game, but my dream to see my name in lights didn’t last long: The spade finesse lost.