Trick Two is Too Late to Start Thinking

You hold the following hand in a pairs game (matchpoints):

♠A 3  A Q 8 4 3  K 8  ♣10 8 3 2.

Your partner deals and opens 1♠. You respond 2, and partner rebids 3♣. You bid 3NT, ending the auction.

Your left-hand opponent leads the J, and this is what you see:

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

You start with six top tricks, so you need two more. Keep this in mind as you plan the play.

You win the K in your hand, playing honors from the short side first, a good principle to follow. But which suit do you attack at trick two: clubs or spades? This is an interesting question. At first, you might say spades, because if you successfully find the ♠Q or spades break 3–3, you have a lot of tricks. A 4–2 split is more likely, however, than a 3–3 split, and because you can always play on spades later if you need to, you should go after clubs first. Also, it is usually better to knock out the opponents’ primary values – such as the ♣A – before going after their secondary or tertiary values like the ♠Q.

You can almost certainly create two club tricks on power, and you might take three. With two club tricks, your total will come to eight tricks.

With this plan in mind, you play a club to dummy’s jack at trick two, which wins. Now you will have three clubs tricks! You need to get back to your hand for another club play, so cross to the ♠A. When you play another club, LHO wins the ace (RHO following low) and returns a diamond to dummy’s queen. With nine sure, you can try for overtricks. Play a low spade from dummy, retaining control of the spade suit by keeping the king. Your RHO wins the *S*10 and returns a diamond to dummy’s ace. When you cash the ♠K, your LHO shows out: the spade suit did not break 3–3.

Is there any other way to take an overtrick? Something to consider: Why did RHO return a diamond instead of a heart? Could it be that she holds a high heart such as the king and does not want to finesse herself? If RHO had secondary heart cards like the J–10–8, he surely he would try to get some heart tricks by attacking the suit.

So after winning the A in dummy, with carefully preserved entries in clubs in both hands, you take the heart finesse by playing low to the queen. Success! You now have 10 tricks (two spades, two hearts, three diamonds and three clubs). You can finish by playing a club to dummy’s king, then a club to your 10, and cash the A.

Well played! You took 10 tricks by attacking clubs first. Here is the full deal:

North
♠ K J 9 6 5
9
A Q 2
♣ K J 5 4
West
♠ 8 2
J 10 7 5
J 10 9 7
♣ A Q 7
East
♠ Q 10 7 4
K 6 2
6 5 3 2
♣ 9 6
South
♠ A 3
A Q 8 4 3
K 8
♣ 10 8 3 2