To discover information about the opponents’ hands, sometimes it helps to count their high-card points, other times to count their distribution. On some deals, this discovery process is
slow when it involves playing many tricks and watching all the spots to build a picture of the unseen hands. On other deals, discovery can take place in a flash through inference.
22. Playing IMPs, you are East defending 3NT.
Playing five-card majors, partner (West) opened 1♥, South bid notrump, and North–South reached 3NT. West leads the ♥6 and declarer calls for dummy’s 10. Which heart do you play?
Duck the opening lead, saving your ♥Q. I like to give count when dummy wins with the jack or a lower card, but the important thing is to
duck. If you presume that South holds a heart stopper to bid notrump in the face of partner’s 1♥ opening, playing the ♥Q at trick one can’t gain. If declarer’s hearts are ♥A K doubleton, saving your queen gains a trick. By withholding your queen, you break even when declarer’s hearts are A–x — declarer is entitled to two heart tricks — but you gain when declarer has A–K or K–x. In the latter case, partner’s ace drops the bare king on the second round and your preserved queen wins the third round. If partner has an entry, your team is ready to run the hearts.
23. Matchpoints. You are South, declaring 4♥.
West leads the ♠6.
- Who holds the ♥Q?
- Who holds the ♣Q?
- Plan the play.
West holds both the ♥Q and ♣Q.
The deductions start with West’s opening lead. His low spade means that East holds at least one top spade; if West held ♠K Q, the spade led would have been an honor. Apply similar reasoning to diamonds. If West held the ♦A K, would he have preferred to lead away from his spade honor? Of course not, so East holds a high diamond. Counting HCP, we’ve learned that West has either the ♠K or ♠Q, and either the ♦A J or ♦K J. With a maximum of 8 HCP in the pointed suits (spades and diamonds), he is a huge favorite to hold both round-suit queens to justify his opening bid.
Win the♠A in case East’s honor is singleton — you don’t want to risk a later spade ruff. Lead a low heart to your ace and run the ♥J if
West doesn’t cover. Finish the trumps if they are 3–1 and finesse clubs through West. On dummy’s fourth club, you discard a loser and claim.