Trick Two is Too Late to Start Thinking

You hold the following hand:

♠A 9 8 6   9   K Q J 10 7   ♣7 4 3.

Your partner opens 1 and you bid 1♠. The auction proceeds:

Partner Opponent You Opponent
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
3♠ Pass 4♠ All Pass

You bid conservatively because you have three losing clubs and shortness in partner’s suit. Even though your partner has shown 16–18 HCP and you hold 10 HCP, you decide to sign off in 4♠.
Your left-hand opponent leads the ♣A, and this is what you see:

♠ K Q J 2
A J 7 6 5 4
A 2
♣ K

♠ A 9 8 6
9
K Q J 10 7
♣ 7 4 3

After cashing the ♣A, LHO plays the ♠10. Before you play to the second trick, you need a plan. Are you going to draw trumps, try to trump clubs in the dummy, or try to set up dummy’s heart suit? Pulling trumps would work if you have established winners afterwards. Here, you would be left with at least one losing club in your hand. Because you are playing duplicate and trying to take as many tricks as possible, that might not be the best line of play.

Because you do not know at trick two if spades are breaking 3–2 or 4–1, and you also do not know if hearts are breaking 3–3 or a more likely 4–2, you should play to keep your options open. By winning the spade trick in your hand with the ace, your leave entries to the dummy’s heart suit intact.

At trick three, play a heart to dummy’s ace, and trump a heart with your ♠6. You want to get to dummy to trump another heart, so play your ♠8 to dummy’s jack. Here, you discover that trumps split 4–1 when West discards a low club. If you draw the outstanding trumps, therefore, you will not be left with a trump in dummy to ruff a club later. So you trump a third heart with your ♠9.

Success: Both opponents follow to the third heart, meaning the suit was originally 3–3. Dummy’s hearts are now good! But you need to get there and finish pulling trump. So next play a diamond to dummy’s ace, followed by dummy’s ♠K Q to draw the two remaining spades from RHO. Now you can enjoy the three remaining hearts in the dummy, and your last trick is a diamond to the king in your hand. You took 12 tricks, even with trumps breaking 4–1.

Here is the full layout. Your line of play established the dummy’s heart suit by ruffing dummy’s losers in hearts in your hand, and you delayed drawing trumps until the long suit in the dummy became established. This is a very successful line of play in many deals.

♠ K Q J 2
A J 7 6 5 4
A 2
♣ K
♠ 10 ♠ 7 5 4 3
K 3 2 Q 10 8
8 6 5 4 9 3
♣ A 9 8 6 5 ♣ Q J 10 2
♠ A 9 8 6
9
K Q J 10 7
♣ 7 4 3

Joan Dziekanski