Test Your Play

1.IMPs

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

(1) Weak

West leads the ♣Q. East plays the ♣8, standard. Plan the play.

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION

You are looking at a loser in each suit, so your best chance is to hope that West has four clubs, in which case the opponents may not be able to cash a club winner before you can set up dummy’s spades for two club discards. The critical move is to lead a diamond at trick two and hope West’s only side-suit entry is in diamonds. As East seems to have the majority of the missing high-card strength, West probably owns no more than a reasonable diamond suit to go along with an apparent club sequence.

Say the diamond loses and East leads a low club to the 10 and king. Now, in order to make this contract, you must assume that East has both the A and the ♠K. After winning the second club, play the Q from dummy. East, marked with the A, is not likely to have a singleton heart and a doubleton club and not jump to 5 (and if he does, he is endplayed).

If East has two hearts, he will win the ace and exit a heart, the best defense. West’s distribution should be 2=1=6=4. After winning the heart return in dummy, lead the ♠9 to the ace and then a low spade, covering whatever spade West plays. If West plays an honor, cover with dummy’s queen; if East wins and plays a low spade, discard a club. West has no more hearts and no more spades. Now you can ruff a spade and set up the suit for a second club discard. If East exits a diamond instead, ruff in your hand, discard a club from dummy, and you have the wherewithal to ruff two clubs in dummy.

Suppose East has three hearts and ducks the first round. No matter. West’s distribution should be 3=0=6=4 so spades are 3–3. Without playing a second heart, play the ♠A and another spade as before. If East wins and gets out with the A and his last heart, win in dummy, ruff a spade to set up the suit and return to dummy’s last heart to cash two winning spades, discarding two losing clubs.

Thanks to Jeff Lehman of Newton MA for this one.

2. IMPs

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

After West opens 2♠ (weak), partner overcalls 2NT, and you Gerber your way into 6.

West leads the ♠Q to dummy’s king and East’s 2 (count). Plan the play.

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION

Start by playing the ♣A K, discard a club on the ♠A, and ruff a club high. Assuming there have been no ruffs (unlikely that West has five clubs or a singleton club and didn’t lead it), you have 12 tricks if the ♣Q appears doubleton or if the suit breaks 3–3. The diamond finesse is gravy. If West does ruffs the second club he is ruffing air, so you can discard a diamond on the ♠A and still have the diamond finesse available. If East ruffs the ♣K, it’s too sad for words.

A likely possibility is that West started with two low clubs. If so, after ruffing a club, play the K and a heart honor to dummy’s ace. If West started with one or two hearts, lead the ♠9. Chances are rather overwhelming at the prevailing vulnerability and IMP scoring that West started with the ♠Q J 10 (as opposed to Q–J–7–x–x–x), in which case you will discard a diamond on the ♠9 and claim.

If West started with three hearts and therefore two diamonds, this play won’t work, as West can exit a heart upon winning the ♠10. You are now reduced to the diamond finesse, something you would like to avoid. A better plan is to ruff the spade and exit with a low diamond. If West started with the J 10 or K J doubleton, he will be forced to win the trick, and you have the rest. You also have the possibility that West will get jittery with J x and go up, also ending the defense. If East plays a low diamond and West wins and returns a diamond, the odds favor the finesse as East started with five diamonds to West’s two. The question is would West open 2♠ with:

♠Q J 10 x x x  x x x  ? ?  ♣x x

without the K? You have to know your customers. If this happens playing against me, play to drop my K x doubleton.

So much for West having two low clubs. What if West started with ♣Q 10 x x? Once you get a count on West’s hearts, you will know the diamond division, so play the K and a heart honor to dummy’s ace. If West started with three hearts, he has a diamond void, so draw the last trump and take the marked diamond finesse. If West started with two hearts and a singleton diamond, cash the A, return to dummy with a trump and lead a diamond to the queen. Alternatively, duck a diamond and then take the diamond finesse.

If West started with one heart and an original distribution of 6=1=2=4, you have to decide which West hand is more likely:

(a)♠Q J 10 x x x   x  xx  ♣Q 10 x x

or

(b) ♠Q J 10 x x x   x  K x  ♣Q 10 x x.

If you think they are equally likely, take the finesse. If you think (b) is the favorite, play to drop the doubleton king.