Test Your Play

1. IMPs

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

West leads the 7. You cover and East wins the Q, cashes the A (West playing the 4) and exits with the 6. Take over.

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION

If East has the ♠K, you have to ruff the heart. In the best of all possible spade worlds, East will have the K–10 doubleton. So let’s say you ruff with the 9 and West discards a club. Now a club ruff, the A K (pitching two clubs) and a diamond ruff, both following.

East is down to the ♠K 10, the K and three minor-suit cards, probably a diamond and two clubs, as West’s discard of a club at trick three hints at fewer than five diamonds. After all, East knows that you have either a singleton or void in diamonds once you turn up with two hearts.

Let’s say that diamonds were 4–4 so East remains with one diamond and two clubs, West remains with the ♠6 2, a diamond and three clubs and it’s your lead. This would be the position:

Dlr:
East
Vul:
None
North
♠ A 8
J 10
8 7
♣ —
West
♠ 6 2
Q
♣ Q 10 8
East
♠ K 10
K
J
♣ A 9
South
♠ Q J 5 4
♣ K J

You ruff the ♣J, and assuming no ace falls on your right, ruff a diamond and ruff the ♣K with the ♠A. Dummy now has two hearts and a diamond, and you have the ♠Q J 5 with the lead in dummy. If you could ruff a heart or a diamond low, you would wind up losing one more spade trick. Alas, the ♠6 in the West hand is the killer, so you have two spade losers. Notice that your demise would have come sooner had West discarded a diamond at trick three preventing you from ruffing the fourth diamond low.

Back to trick three: If you ruff the third heart with the ♠9 and find East with ♣A x, you can actually prevail even if West discards a diamond from a three-card holding at trick three! Ruff a club, play the A K, discarding two clubs. Ruff a diamond high, ruff the ♣J felling the ace, cash the ♠A and ruff a red card high. Get out with a trump, felling the two remaining trumps while you still remain with a trump and the ♣K. This would be a minor miracle.

So what does it all mean? It means you shouldn’t play East for the ♠K 10 doubleton and the ♣A x, but rather play West for the ♠K x and simply discard a club on the third heart. (If West has the hoped-for K–x, East will have the ♣A).

After West ruffs the heart at trick three, there is nothing the defense can do. If West exits with a diamond (as good as anything), win the ace, discarding a club, cash the ♠A, felling the king, and now it is easy enough to ruff two clubs and discard yet another club on a high diamond, taking care of all five of your clubs. You eventually return to your hand by ruffing a red card to draw the last trump.

Thanks to Neil Cohen, Austin TX, for this one.

2.IMPs

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

After partner opens 1 and jumps to 2NT after your 1 response, you wind up in 7 with the ♠10 lead.

Say you win the opening lead in dummy (nice play) and cross to the K.

A. How do you play if both follow?
B. How do you play if East shows out?

CLICK HERE FOR SOLUTION

A. Cash the K and return to the A. If hearts are 2–2 you have 13 tricks, so assume someone shows out. Ruff a low diamond; play your three remaining trumps discarding two clubs from dummy and cross to a spade in a four-card ending. Dummy has A Q x and the blank ♣Q, and you have a spade and the ♣A 10 x.

If diamonds were originally 4–3, you have the rest. If East started with five diamonds and the ♣K J, he has already been squeezed down to the blank ♣K making the ♣10 your 13th trick after you cash the A Q and the ♣A. East would also be squeezed if he started with any six clubs along with five diamonds (pretty far out).

B. Cash the K, lead a heart to the 10, cash the A, ruff a diamond, cash the Q and play as before, cashing your remaining hearts and then crossing to a spade to run the diamonds. You are home if diamonds were 4–3 (three discards coming), and you still have a chance for a minor-suit squeeze on East if diamonds are 5–2 as described in the previous answer.

The trap on A is to try to ruff a spade for your 13th trick, which requires 4–3 diamonds plus a trump outstanding when you try to cash the A Q, dooming you when diamonds are 5–2 as you no longer have the timing for a minor-suit squeeze, not to mention the risk that either defender holding three hearts to the jack has two spades.