Hand of the Week
Although many players would open 1♠ rather than 2♣ on the South cards, the latter is a reasonable choice because the hand does have more quick tricks than losers – my old standby for such cases. In the end, the three opponents have contrived to have you declare a five-level contract. How do you plan to make 11 tricks after West leads the ♥A?
If trumps are no worse than 3-1, just draw the trumps, ending on the table, and run the ♦10. You will lose at most one club and one diamond. The situation becomes trickier if West discards on the first round of trumps. Suppose the full deal is:
After you ruff the ♥A and play a trump to the queen, the 4-0 trump split puts you in danger of going down. Suppose you run the ♦10. West wins the ♦Q and plays another heart and you must ruff. As you still need a club trick, you must play the ♣K. East wins the ♣A and taps you with another heart. You will have only two trumps in each hand to East’s three and as he has no more diamonds he must make a trump.
Is there anything better? In order to find out, let’s do some card reading. Assuming that the bidding is rational, East is very likely to have both the ♣A and shortage in one of the minors. Further, there is close to a three-in-four chance that East has at least four clubs. So at trick three you should play a low club towards your hand. On this, layout if East plays low, the king wins the trick and you can now draw trumps and give up a diamond trick. You make six trumps, four diamonds and a club.
What happens if East plays the ♣A and forces you with another heart? After you ruff, you will cash the ♣K and cross to dummy with the jack of trumps to play dummy’s two club winners, throwing low diamonds from hand. Then, after drawing trumps, you cash your top diamonds for the 10th and 11th tricks.
If West takes the ♣K with the ace, then you can still get home provided East has at least two cards in each minor. After ruffing the heart return, you simply play the diamonds from the top. If a defender wins the third diamond and plays another heart, ruff, cash the ace of trumps and any minor suit winners you can. After that you will make the last two tricks on a high crossruff.
When it is West rather than East with four trumps, the contract will not succeed and it will be time to minimize the damage while praying for an easier time on the next deal!