East–West are playing five-card majors, negative doubles and support doubles. West leads the ♦2, East playing the ♦Q. Plan the play.
This hand is a good inferential test for declarer as he can actually determine the likely East–West distributions at trick one!
Given that the opponents are playing support doubles, the raise to 2♠ by East shows four spades, so each opponent has four spades. What about hearts? Hearts must be 4–3 because if either opponent had five hearts, the suit would have been bid.
If West had four hearts along with four spades, he would have made a negative double. Also, with 4–4 in the majors, the normal response is 1♥ if there has been no interfering overcall. So East is the one with four hearts and is therefore 4–4 in the majors with five minor-suit cards. East might have either a 4=4=1=4 or a 4=4=2=3 pattern.
But consider the lead. If East had a 4=4=1=4 pattern, would West have led a trump from ♦J x x x? Very, very unlikely. So place East with a 4=4=2=3 pattern. Now the idea is to avoid three spade losers given this troublesome trump lead.
Trying to ruff a spade won’t cut the mustard. If you lead a spade, East wins and returns a trump which you win. If you lead a second spade, West wins and cashes the ♦J leaving you with a third spade to lose along with a diamond and a club.
Given that clubs are 3–3, the answer is to play the ♣A, ♣K and another club to set up dummy’s fourth club. At that point, East probably has the lead and there is nothing East can do to defeat the contract.
If East returns a trump, win in your hand, cross to a heart, and discard a spade on the 13th club allowing West to trump with the ♦J, if he wishes. If East returns a heart, win in dummy, cross to a high diamond, back to a heart in dummy and again pitch a spade on a club. You wind up losing two spades, a diamond and a club.
Thanks to Jon Shuster, Gainesville FL, for this one.
(1) Intermediate: 11–14 HCP.
West leads the ♥K. East plays the 2, standard carding. Trumps are 2–1, West having the singleton. East follows to three rounds of hearts. Plan the play.
Well, it’s not the greatest slam, but you have several chances. If the ♣J is doubleton or tripleton, you won’t have to mess with diamonds, as the ♣10 will provide a resting place for one of dummy’s diamonds. Failing that, you have the double diamond finesse or a squeeze on East if he guards both minors.
Start with the ♥A, discarding a diamond, draw two rounds of trumps, keeping entry flexibility, and now the ♣K. Say West wins and gets out with a high heart which you ruff. Cross to the ♣Q, ruff dummy’s last heart and ruff a club hoping to drop the jack. If the ♣J has not made an appearance, this is the five-card ending you should arrive at, the lead in dummy.
It looks very much as if West started with seven hearts for his vulnerable, three-level overcall. If he had seven hearts along with the ♣A J x x, he is likely to have overcalled 4♥. If he had six hearts, it seems as if 2♥ would have been enough. Bottom line: Play West for a 1=7=2=3 pattern, in which case East is 4–4 in the minors along with the ♣J. Play a high spade forcing a diamond discard from East, and now the coup de grâce, dummy’s last spade. East must discard a second diamond, as you pitch the ♣10. Now, if the stars are in alignment, you will take the last three diamond tricks, the suit now breaking 2–2.