Test Your Play

1. IMPs

North
♠ A K 5
A K J 5
K J
♣ A K J 3
South
♠ J 10 9 8 6 3
8 6 3
A Q
♣ 5 2
WEst North East South
2♠
Pass 4NT Pass 5♣
Pass 5 Pass 5♠
Pass 6♠ All Pass

2♠ is weak, 4NT is RKCB 1430 (some use 4♣ after a weak two-bid to ask for key cards), 5♣ showed one key card, 5 is the queen ask and 5♠ denied the ♠Q.

Opening lead: ♣10 (standard). Both follow low to the ♣A. Plan the play.

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This is a good “Take All Your Chances” hand. If I ever write a third book on the subject (don’t hold your breath), this hand is sure to be in there. So if you buy the book, you’re sure to get one right!

After winning the lead in dummy and cashing the ♠A (both follow low), cash two rounds of diamonds, ending in your hand, and lead the ♠J. If West follows low, play low and you have a claimer. Either the trump finesse works and you are playing for an overtrick or East wins the doubleton queen and is endplayed into giving you your 12th trick.

If West shows out on the second spade, rise with the king and exit a spade to East’s queen. Assuming East has a diamond, he will surely lead it, which you will ruff, discarding a heart from dummy. Cross to the ♣K, cash the A, and ruff a club. If the ♣Q has not appeared, play your last trump. The three-card ending:

North
♠ –
K J
♣ J
South
♠ 10
8 6
♣ –

At this point, you may know (or suspect) who has the ♣Q. If West discards a heart on your last trump, pitch the ♣J from dummy. When you play a heart next, go up with the K. Because West’s other card is the ♣Q, you have to hope the Q drops from East. If East is marked with the ♣Q, take the heart finesse. If you can’t tell, the heart finesse is probably your best shot given that West may have been reluctant to lead from a queen against a slam contract.

2. IMPs

Dlr:
West
Vul:
E-W
North
♠ A K Q 8 6 4
A K J 7 5
♣ Q 4
South
♠ J 3 2
Q 4
Q 9 8 7 3 2
♣ J 3
WEst North East South
1♣ 2♣ (1) Pass 2♠
3 4♣! Pass 4♠
Pass 6♠ All Pass

(1) Majors

West leads the K. Partner tried to avoid a club lead, and he succeeded, but you still have a slam to make. Plan the play.

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Given the vulnerability and the form of scoring, the most likely hand patterns for West are 4–6, 5–6, or possibly 5–7 in the minors. (With 6–7, he surely would have bid more!) Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that West, unless he has a death wish, is 4–5 in the minors, certainly not 2=2=4=5 or a void in one.

Keep in mind that there will be distributions where you cannot make the contract. Your job is to determine which can’t be made and how to play those that can.

For starters, it is always right to ruff the diamond opening lead and then play a spade to the jack rather than a high spade from dummy which can lead to problems when East has all four trumps.

Basically you want to discard clubs on hearts and ruff clubs with low trumps in your hand, not with the jack. After cashing one spade, therefore, start running hearts to discard clubs, so every analysis starts at trick three. Most of the time, West will be looking at three cards in the majors, max.

Let’s start with the 4–6 patterns. Yes, I know, some Wests would have rebid a conventional 2NT to show this pattern, but let’s say your opponents don’t have this gadget in their arsenal. There are four possibilities: 1=2=4=6, 2=1=4=6, 3=0=4=6, 0=3=4=6.

1=2=4=6: Winner! Play four rounds of hearts, discarding two clubs, ruff a club, ruff a diamond, and ruff a club. You remain with a winning heart and the ♠A K Q. Ruff a diamond, draw trumps, and make an overtrick!

2=1=4=6: Loser! West ruffs the second heart and cashes two clubs. Notice that had you drawn a second trump before attacking hearts, you would only be able to ruff one loser in your hand, and with hearts 5–1, you would wind up with 11 tricks. That is why you don’t play a second trump before starting hearts: It doesn’t help and it prevents you from ruffing twice in your hand.

3=0=4=6: Loser! West ruffs the first heart and cashes two clubs. Drawing trumps first would not help. Whenever West is 2–1 or 3–0 in the majors, you are a goner.

0=3=4=6: Winner! Play three rounds of hearts, discarding a club, and concede a club. Nothing the defense can do to prevent you from ruffing a club in your hand and drawing trumps.

There are three 5–6 distributions: 1=1=5=6, 0=2=5=6, 2=0=5=6.

1=1=5=6: Winner! Cash four hearts,discarding two clubs, ruff a heart, ruff a diamond, ruff a club, and ruff a diamond high. Dummy remains with the ♠A K and a losing club.

0=2=5=6: Winner! Cash four hearts, discarding two clubs, ruff a club, ruff a diamond and ruff a club. Dummy remains with the ♠A K Q and a high heart. Because East has three spades left and the lead is in your hand, you must concede the last trick to East.

2=0=5=6: Loser! West ruffs the first heart and cashes two clubs. Drawing a second trump before playing hearts won’t work either. This is a recording.

As 5–7 is possible, let’s take a look. There are two: 0–1–5–7, 1–0–7–5

0=1=5=7: Winner! Play four rounds of hearts, discarding two clubs, and ruff a heart. Back to dummy with a diamond ruff, and now a club ruff leaves dummy with the ♠A K Q and a losing club. You can handle it.

1=0=5=7: Winner! As above.

Bottom line: If West has more than one trump, you’re toast, so don’t draw a second trump!