Trick Two is Too Late to Start Thinking

You hold:

♠J 5   A J 9 7 5 3   10 4   ♣K Q 5.

Here is the auction:

LHO Partner RHO You
Pass 1 1♠ 2
3♣ 3 Pass 3
Pass 4 All Pass

Left-hand opponent leads the ♠9, and the dummy comes down:

♠ A 8 6 4
K 10
A J 9 8 7 6
♣ 9

♠ J 5
A J 9 7 5 3
10 4
♣ K Q 5

What are your thoughts as your think about your line of play?

First, consider the bidding and the trump holding in the dummy, the “short” hand. Because LHO bid 3♣, it is likely she has the ♣A, so you should not play RHO for that card. So if you decide to ruff clubs in dummy, you will have to trump two of them with good hearts, namely the K and the 10. If the dummy held two low hearts and other high cards, you would be happy to try this.

Second, pulling trumps is premature until you figure out your line of play.

Third, because trumping clubs is not ideal, there is the diamond suit to work on. Of course, diamonds should be played from your hand.

These thoughts lead you to your play at trick one. You should duck the ♠9 lead. RHO wins with the ♠Q and returns a club. You play the queen, and LHO wins the ace. When LHO returns the ♠2, you win the ♠A in the dummy.

Next, you need to work on dummy’s diamonds, but because it’s better to play them from your hand, you need to cross to your hand using trumps. So play the K and then the 10. Here, you get some good news: RHO plays the queen and you win the A. You pull leftie’s last trump with your J.

Finally, you get to work on diamonds from your hand. You are playing for split honors, but you need to be careful here. You should play the 4 to dummy’s 6, the key play. You should not play the 10 because your LHO may cover it, interfering with your intention to finesse twice in the suit. You want RHO to win the first trick with the queen or king; if the honors are split between your opponents, you will finesse against LHO’s remaining honor on the second round.

RHO wins the Q and returns a club. You win the ♣K and play your 10, overtaking with dummy’s jack when LHO plays low. Next cash dummy’s A, dropping LHO’s king. Dummy’s suit is good to go.

Well done! You listened to the bidding, played for the ♣A to be with LHO, played for the diamond honors to be split, and played trumps correctly. You realized you could not ruff clubs in the dummy because dummy’s trumps were needed to extract the opponents’ trumps.

Here is the full deal:

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

Joan Dziekanski