1. KO Final
(1) A touch off the beaten path.
(2) Six-card club suit with 15–16 HCP.
(3) We’re behind in this match; besides, I won’t have to play it.
West leads the ♦Q, East plays the ♦3, standard carding. Plan the play.
Win the ♦A, cross to the ♣K, back to the ♦K, ruff a diamond, back to the ♠K and cash the ♣A. If the ♣Q is doubleton, you are playing for an overtrick. However:
If clubs are 3–2 and the queen is still at large, cross to the ♠A and ruff a spade. If spades are 3–3, give up a club and claim. If spades are 4–2 and the queen has not turned up, exit a club. If East wins and has no diamond to lead, you have the rest. If East finds a diamond return, ruff and take the heart finesse. If West wins the ♣Q, same story, the heart finesse.
If West started with the singleton ♣Q, East remains with the 10–x of trumps. Cross to the ♠A, ruff a spade, cross to the ♥A, ruff a spade, exit a heart and take the last two tricks with the J–9 of clubs.
If East started with the singleton ♣Q, cash the ♣J and now a spade to the ace and a spade ruff. If the spades are good, you lose one club trick. If not, eventually take the heart finesse.
If West started with a singleton low club, East now remains with the ♣Q 10. Do not despair! Cross to the ♠A, ruff a spade, take the heart finesse, and assuming it works, ruff a spade, now over to the ♥A and with two cards remaining in each hand and the lead in dummy you must take a 12th trick with the ♣J.
2. $$$$ bridge
West leads the ♣2. Say you win the ♣A, ruff a club, and bang down the ♥K playing East to be shorter in hearts. How do you continue if both follow low? How do you continue if East plays an honor?
If both follow low, play a heart to the ace. If both follow, you are playing for an overtrick.
Cash the ♦K and ♦A. If both follow, take the spade finesse for an overtrick. If East shows out on the second diamond, take the marked diamond finesse and then the spade finesse. If West shows out on the second diamond, throw East in with a fourth diamond and claim. Alternatively, if you dislike West more, play the ♠K, ♠A and ♠J forcing West to win (because East is 0=2=4=7) and give you a ruff-sluff for your contract. Bridge is an easy game when you dislike one opponent more than the other.
If West turns up with the ♥Q J x, try the ♠K and a spade to the jack. If the jack holds, cash the ♠A and throw West in with a heart to take the remaining tricks not having to deal with diamonds.
If East plays the jack or queen under the ♥K, play the ♦A and a diamond towards the king. If both follow, cross to the ♠K and take the heart finesse. If it loses, and East does not have a third diamond, he is endplayed and must lead a black card, ending the play. If East produces a third diamond, you need the spade finesse, which figures to work as East, vulnerable, figures to be 1=2=3=7, not 2=2=3=6 with the doubleton ♠Q. Remember 3♣ was for $$$$, vulnerable.
Let’s not forget a possible 4–1 diamond division. Say East has J–x–x–x. in diamonds. If West ruffs the second diamond, you need the spade finesse unless West can give East a spade ruff. However, that means West passed originally with seven spades to the Q–10–9 and a possible club honor and East didn’t double with a spade void. If West ruffs the second diamond with a 5=3=1=4 pattern and gets out safely with a heart (or a spade), you lose when East has started with a 2=1=4=6 pattern with ♠Q x. West, however, may decide not to ruff air with honor-third of hearts. If West doesn’t ruff (presumably with fewer than seven spades), cross to the ♠K, and run the ♥10. If it loses, East, who only has room for a singleton spade, is endplayed into leading a minor-suit card conceding the slam.
If West has ♦J x x x and East ruffs the ♦K with his remaining heart, he must lead a black card, giving you the rest of the tricks. If East does not ruff the ♦K, cross to the ♠K and run the ♥10. If it holds, you are playing for an overtrick; if it loses, East is endplayed. Bottom line: If East has a singleton diamond you are a lock.
Notice that had you played the ♦K and then a diamond to the ace at tricks four and five, and if West had ruffed the ♦A, you would be down, down, down remaining with an inescapable diamond loser. Playing the ♦A and low to the K–Q–10 keeps you alive when West has a singleton diamond and fewer than seven spades. It also locks up the contract when East has a singleton diamond.
Thanks to David Goldfarb of Houston TX for this teaser.