Test Your Play

1. IMPs

Dlr:
South
Vul:
None
North
♠ Q 10 4
K J 5 4 2
6 5 3
♣ 9 8
South
♠ A 7 2
A 8 7 3
K Q J
♣ A K 7
West North East South
2NT
Pass 3(1) Pass 4
All Pass

(1) Transfer

West leads the 10. East wins the ace and shifts to the ♣J. You win the ace and play the A, both following. Plan the play from here.

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION

For openers, it appears that diamonds are 4–3. If West had two or five diamonds, he probably would have returned the suit to get or give a ruff. Of course, he might have had a singleton!

Once you come to the 4–3 diamond conclusion, the rest is clear. Cash two more diamonds then a second high club and ruff a club. If everyone follows to everything, cross to the ♠A and lead a heart intending to finesse the jack if West follows. Even if you lose to a doubleton queen, East must lead a spade or give you a ruff and a sluff, and you make your contract.

If West turns up with Q–x, win the king, return to your hand with a trump, and lead up to the ♠Q 10 looking to snatch a possible overtrick.

If you try to ruff the club before cashing diamonds, you could be in trouble if either defender has a doubleton club. If East has it, he will overruff dummy and exit safely with a red card forcing you to play spades. If West has a doubleton club and discards a diamond, you will fear stripping diamonds: If West started with three, he will ruff the third diamond. Better to cash those two diamond winners before ruffing a club.

Finally, in the unlikely case where a diamond honor is ruffed before you have stripped clubs, you will have to get the spades right to make the contract.

Thanks to Jon Shuster of Gainesville FL for this one.

2. Matchpoints

Dlr:
West
Vul:
N-S
North
♠ A 10 8
7 6 2
K
♣ A J 9 6 3 2
South
♠ K 7 3 2
A Q 5
Q 10 8 5 4
♣ K
West North East South
1 2♣ Pass 3NT
All Pass

West leads the 2 (fourth best), East plays the 3. After taking both minor-suit kings, how do you continue?

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION

Barring miracles, you must bring in clubs for five tricks to make 3NT, so you must create two dummy entries in spades to do this.

Think about the West hand for a moment. For West to lead from something like the A J 9 2 into the 3NT bidder indicates he has a tough hand to lead from. If he had a four-card major, he probably would have chosen that lead. And if he had the ♠Q J x, he would have preferred that lead, as well. If these inferences are correct, your best bet is to play West for the ♠J 9 x or ♠Q 9 x and lead a low spade to the 8! If this drives out an honor (East is unlikely to be strong enough to have both spade honors as that would give West a balanced 11 count to open first seat vulnerable), your ♠A 10 will provide you with those two dummy entries.

Say East wins with the ♠J and returns a heart. Rise with the ace, cross to the ♠10, cash the ♣A and if the 10 falls, drive out West’s queen, giving you at least nine sure tricks: five clubs, two spades and a trick in each red suit. If the 10 fails to appear, give up a club to West and hope the suit divides 3–3, once again giving you nine tricks.

If East returns a diamond instead of a heart, cover whatever is led, and West, after winning the trick as cheaply as possible, has no exit that can prevent you from taking nine tricks given that clubs and spades both perform as needed.

Is there a fly in the ointment? What if West, holding the ♠J 9 x or ♠Q 9 x and the ♠Q x x x, divines your entry problem and plays a high spade at trick three? Can you overcome this play?

Win the ♠A, play the ♣A and drive out the queen when the 10 drops. As the only return that does not cost a trick and give declarer an overtrick is a club, say West returns a club. Now what? An overtrick still beckons. It works like this: Cash both remaining clubs reducing to these five cards, West to discard on the last club:

North
♠ 10 8
7 6 3
♣ —
West
♠ 9 4
K 9
A J
♣ —
East
♠ J 5
J 10
7
♣ —
South
♠ K 7
A Q
Q
♣ —

What can West do? If he discards a spade, lead the ♠10. If East covers, win the king, cross to the ♠8 and assuming West has reduced to two hearts and a diamond, you wind up with 10 tricks: five clubs, three spades plus a trick in each red suit. If East fails to cover, you can win the second spade with the king forcing West to part either with a heart (blanking the king) or the J (blanking the ace). In the first case, cash the A; in the second, exit with the Q and take the last two tricks with the A Q. In both cases, you wind up with 11 tricks! Keep in mind that you know West’s distribution and honor-card holdings, so you are not exactly playing with mirrors.

If West discards a heart on the last club, cash the A Q, West discarding a spade, and make an overtrick. If West discards a diamond, lead the ♠10 to your king, East covering, and exit a spade. West wins and cashes the A, but must concede the last two tricks to the A Q, once again giving you an overtrick. This is one time a brilliant defensive play was not rewarded!