West leads the ♥A. East encourages and West continues with a heart. Plan the play.
Well, there are several ways to attack this layout, but Jonathan Shuster of Gainesville FL found a neat line to make an overtrick, losing three spades and a heart, and beating all the pairs in 1NT making two.
Jon’s line: He won the ♥K, discarding a club, cashed the ♦A K, the ♣K A, and then a sneaky ♣J at trick seven. When West followed, he ruffed in dummy, and (as it happened) East followed. Next he ruffed the ♥10 and ruffed his last club with the ♠J. The most the opponents could take was three spades and the ♥A, plus 140.
This line, which produced an overtrick, is not foolproof when clubs are 4–2, but the defenders have to know how to manage their trumps to hold the contract to plus 110.
If West is out of clubs when the ♣J is led, he has a choice: If West ruffs high, you discard a diamond from dummy, not a heart, to encourage a heart continuation and avoid a club ruff. You will ruff the heart and ruff your last club, losing three spades and a heart, period.
If West started with ♠Q x x x, ♠K x x x or ♠A x x x and ruffs in front of dummy (as you discard a heart), West may be tempted to lead a trump. Now East can cash two spades and give West a club ruff. West can also ruff high with ♠K Q x x or ♠A Q x x, cash a high spade, and lead a low spade to West’s now lone honor and get a club ruff. Not exactly what most West players are apt to do with that heart staring them in the face. But why reduce West’s options by discarding a heart? The opponents have a much better chance of engineering a fourth-round club ruff, holding you to contract, when East has two clubs, and in some cases, a necessary third diamond. For example, if East started with ♠Q x x(x), ♠K x x (x), ♠A x x(x), ♠A K x x or ♠A Q x x, he can overruff, lead a spade to West and ruff the club return, holding you to eight tricks.
If East started with any of these spade holdings along with five hearts, it may seem best to force declarer with a heart, but it isn’t. If East overruffs and returns a heart, South ruffs and ruffs a club. Making three. If East overruffs and leads a spade to West who plays a heart, South ruffs and remains with three spades to East’s two. South drives out East’s remaining spade honor and takes the rest. Making three.
But if East started with ♠A K x, ♠A Q x or ♠K Q x, East must overruff dummy and lead a diamond (if he has one), allowing West to overruff declarer and return a club for East to ruff.
The smart money is betting on Jon and plus 140. There are just too many ways for the opponents to go wrong — far too many.
Opening lead: ♦J. East wins the ace and returns the ♦2, standard carding.
Clubs are not 5–0, and both follow to the first two rounds of spades. Plan the play.
Obviously clubs have to be 4–1 for this problem to be in here, so be prepared.
Win the ♦K, discarding a spade from dummy (blocking the suit, but you can’t afford any other discard), cash the ♠K Q, and return to your hand by cashing the ♣A Q.
Scenario No. 1: West shows out on second club, discarding a diamond. Suddenly, you are looking at 10 top tricks, so you definitely need one major to break 3–3 plus a squeeze for the 12th trick.
East, 4–4 in the minors, cannot be squeezed no matter which major suit breaks 3–3 as West will be guarding the other. Forget East.
But don’t forget West. If West has a 3=4=5=1 pattern, he can be squeezed in the reds. At trick seven cross to the ♣K, then play the ♥A and a heart to the queen followed by the ♠A and the winning 13th spade.
When you lead your last spade, you remain with a heart and the ♦9. Dummy has a club and the ♥K x. West has two hearts and the ♦10 and cannot discard safely on the last spade.
Scenario No. 2: East shows out on the second club. Once again East is out of the picture as far as any squeeze goes. Given that West has followed to two spades, the only suit that can break 3–3 is spades, and that leaves West holding hearts. Squeezing one opponent normally requires that opponent be guarding two suits, not one. One-suited squeezes are very rare. But West can be squeezed in the minors if spades are 3–3, West being 3=1=5=4. After cashing the ♠K Q and the ♣A Q, play three rounds of hearts, ending in your hand, followed by the ♠A and the 13th spade. Before leading your last spade, you remain with a club and the ♦9. West has two clubs and the ♦10, dummy ♣K x x. The last spade squeezes West in the minors.
Bonus question for the two or three of you still out there: You start the same, discarding a spade on the ♦K, but when you cash the ♠K Q, West discards a diamond. Now what?
To have any problem, project four clubs in the West hand, which means hearts must be 3–3, but you must cash four hearts, discarding a spade, before attacking clubs as all the hearts must be cashed while you have a club entry to squeeze West in the minors. Assuming hearts are 3–3 (if they are not, clubs are 3–2), cross to the ♣A, cash the ♣Q, and then the ♠A, the killer. You remain with a club and the ♦9, dummy has ♣K x x and West, yet to play, has two clubs and the ♦10. Arrivederci, West, and long live the ♦9.