High black, low black
This deal comes from the 2013 Grand National Teams final.
Take the East cards and try your defense after the auction has gone 1NT–3NT.
♠ K 5 ♥ 9 5 3 ♦ Q 7 5 4 3 ♣ K 10 2
Your partner leads a club and dummy plays low. Plan your defense.
A good question to ask is: “Which club did partner lead?” At the table, the lead was the ♣4. When dummy played low, East inserted the 10.
What if your partner had led a higher club, for example, the 9? Now, when dummy plays low, you would know the queen is with declarer (partner wouldn’t lead the 9 from Q–9–x–x). In this case, you should win the ♣K. With no future in the red suits (partner would have led hearts with a good holding there), you should continue with the ♣10 (high from a remaining doubleton when returning a suit). Declarer plays the queen and overtakes in dummy to play a low spade. What is your thinking now?
If you robotically play low, the contract can’t be set. Let’s look at the full deal:
On the Real Deal, South (trailing in the match) was swinging with his 1NT opening. I don’t recommend this with 5–4 in the majors. When the opponents misdefended, however, the contract made.
In actuality, West led the ♣4 (I don’t agree) and East naturally put in the ♣10 to the first trick. Declarer won the queen and worked on spades to set up nine easy tricks. East won the ♠K to win the first spade, but it was all over. Even had West won the first spade, declarer could still make the contract.
The winning defense is for West to lead a high club. East now will win the king and return the suit. When spades are played from dummy, East has to be alert and play second-hand high – not the normal procedure.
When the ♠K wins, East knocks out the last high club. West gets in with the ♠A to enjoy his long clubs: The defense gets three club tricks and the top two spades for down one. If East doesn’t hop with his ♠K, West’s ace is driven out prematurely. He now has no entry to his long clubs and declarer makes 3NT.
The key to the defense was for West to lead a high club and for East to win the ♣K and later play the ♠K on the first round. If you think you and your partner would routinely have set this contract, I will tell you that this East–West are indisputably on everyone’s short list of all-time best partnerships in bridge history, and they failed to set the contract.
At the other table, South opened a normal 1♠ and after partner’s limit raise, played in 4♠. On a club lead, declarer would likely fail (unless he had the hand records in advance). The opening lead, however, was a diamond (a heart would be equally fatal), and declarer had an easy time making game.