Test Your Play

1. Matchpoints

♠ A 6
A K 10 4
♣ K Q J 5 3 2
♠ Q J 8 7 5
Q J 6
Q J 9 8
♣ A
West North East South
Pass 2♣ 2 Pass
Pass Dbl Pass 3
Pass 4NT(1) Pass 5♣(2)
Pass 6 All Pass

(1) Roman Key Card Blackwood.
(2) One key card.

West leads the 3. East wins the A and shifts to the 5. Plan the play.

Win the diamond shift cheaply in your hand and ruff the Q high, covered or not, and play a second high trump from dummy. If diamonds are 4–1, draw the two remaining trumps, discarding a spade from dummy, cash the ♣A and cross to the now-blank ♠A and hope to run the clubs.

You need 3–3 or 4–2 clubs (84%). The two traps are not to run the Q to take an unneeded ruffing finesse at trick two nor to take a practice spade finesse.

If both follow when you cash a second diamond, cross to the ♣A, ruff your last heart with dummy’s remaining trump, ruff a low club, cash your remaining diamond discarding a spade from dummy, and run the clubs. With diamonds 3–2, you can handle 5–1 clubs as well.

Thanks to Jon Shuster of Gainsville FL for this one.

Update: Reader Stephen Cooper of Toronto ON pointed out something that I overlooked.

Instead of crossing to the ♣A at trick two, declarer should play the ♣K and a club to the ace. That way if clubs are 5–1, declarer can discard two clubs on the K J and hope for a lucky heart position. For example, East might hold the K Q (x) or honor doubleton, or West might hold K–Q doubleton as you plan to lead low to the jack and then the ace. This is roughly an 8% improvement over the original line of play.

2. IMPs

♠ 7 5 3
10 4 3 2
A Q 7 3
♣ A 7
♠ A K Q
A J 7
♣ K Q 6 5 3
West North East South
Pass 2 Pass 2NT
Pass 3♣ Pass 3
Pass 6NT; All Pass

West leads the ♠J. How do you play at matchpoints? At IMPs?

Matchpoints: There is a wonderful chance to make an overtrick without too much risk, so go for it. Cash the K J at tricks two and three, cross to the ♣A, discard two hearts on the winning diamonds, and now the ♣K Q. If clubs break 3–3, you have 13 tricks. If they break 4–2, give up a club. At this point, the only way you can lose is if diamonds were 5–2 and the player with the four clubs also has five diamonds, a rather long shot.

IMPs: The play in a knockout match is something else. For a 30-point (1-IMP) investment, it pays to try to ensure your contract rather than play for the overtrick, which requires 3–3 clubs. In addition, your opponents at the other table may not have reached a slam, making it even more important to bring this baby home safely.

In order to guard against the same player holding four clubs and five diamonds, cash the K J at tricks two and three, but this time, duck a club — the key play — at trick four. Win the heart or spade return, cross to the ♣A, discard two hearts on the A Q, return to your hand with a spade, and cash the ♣K Q. As long as clubs are 3–3 or 4–2 (84%) you have 12 tricks.