Nine ever, but not always
See if you can do better than several world champion declarers who held this South hand in the 2017 Bermuda Bowl:
♠K J 5 ♥A J 10 7 3 ♦K Q J 2 ♣2
With neither side vulnerable, in second seat, your partner opens 1♣. After right-hand opponent passes, you respond 1♥ and LHO overcalls 1♠. Partner raises to 2♥, promising four-card support, and RHO chimes in with 3♦. You attempt to double for penalties, but partner removes to 3♥, which you raise to 4♥. The ♦;9 is led and you see:
RHO wins the ♦A and shifts to a low spade. LHO takes your jack with the queen, cashes the ace and then exits with a club.
What is your plan?
This is certainly a draw-trump situation. Or is it?
You have only high cards left, and if you can pick up the ♥Q, you have the rest of the tricks.
Will it be “eight ever, nine never”? That would mean you play for the drop: “Never” finesse with nine.
That’s what several of our experts tried, and this was the Real Deal:
Down one. So, how should they have known?
After winning the ♣A at trick four, it couldn’t hurt to do some exploration. From the bidding and early play, LHO is marked with five spades and not too many diamonds. He couldn’t also be short in clubs.
Before broaching the trump suit, it couldn’t hurt to play more clubs from dummy – West won’t ruff. On the second round of clubs, East shows out! This marks West with 5–5 in the black suits, and heart shortness. If West has two hearts, it means only one diamond. That would give East seven diamonds, and he would likely have bid the first time. With West’s shape pretty much marked (5=1=2=5), declarer should play the ♥K and then finesse against East’s ♥Q for plus 420.