Plan your play in 3NT with the lead of the ♥K (you opened 1NT as South and partner raised you to game).
♠ K 6 3
♥ 6 4 3
♦ A Q 10 9 4 3
♠ A Q 2
♥ A J 8
♦ J 6
♣ K 9 8 7 4
Your winners are three spades, one heart and one diamond for sure. You will end up with four more diamond tricks simply by giving up the lead to the king. With a successful diamond
finesse, you might not even lose the lead. You will definitely go after diamonds.
When you might lose the lead, you must consider whether there are any dangerous suits. If the defenders switch to clubs, you lose two tricks at most (East can’t get in enough times
to lead through your club holding twice), so that suit isn’t too dangerous. Are hearts dangerous? They could be if you win the ace and East gains the lead with the ♦K.
East could return a heart through your remaining J–8. In notrump, you don’t lead an honor without the next touching honor and usually a third high card, so it’s reasonable to picture
West with four or five hearts headed by the K-Q-10.
If West started with five hearts, you could go down if you win the ♥A at trick one. Better to hold off. A side benefit of doing this is that it is now unsafe for West to continue leading hearts. Another heart lead will come right into your A-J and give you a trick you don’t deserve.
No switch can hurt you badly. Suppose West switches to the ♠10 at trick two. Save the ♠K in dummy as an entry to the diamonds and win in your hand. Then go after diamonds,
leading the jack to finesse. If the finesse loses, East cannot hurt you. Win a major-suit return. If East returns a low club or even the ♣10, let the lead ride around to dummy’s jack
to guarantee the loss of no more than two quick club tricks (the queen and ace). If East returns the ♣Q, cover to guarantee the loss of no more than two clubs (the ace and 10). The worst
you can do is lose four tricks — the heart you refused on opening lead, the ♦K and two clubs. The full deal:
|♠ K 6 3|
|♥ 6 4 3|
|♦ A Q 10 9 4 3|
|♠ 10 9 8||♠ J 7 5 4|
|♥ K Q 10 7 5||♥ 9 2|
|♦ 8 5||♦ K 7 2|
|♣ A 6 2||♣ Q 10 5 3|
|♠ A Q 2|
|♥ A J 8|
|♦ J 6|
|♣ K 9 8 7 4|
Assuming you hold up at trick one and West switches to the ♠10, East can return a heart when he gains the lead with the ♦K to hold you to nine tricks. If West continues hearts at trick two, you make an overtrick. In a pairs game, preventing overtricks can sometimes be good for a top even if declarer makes the contract.
Notice West’s heart holding. West led his long suit, choosing the ♥K, top of touching honors from a suit containing at least three high cards.
When you lead from a holding like this, it is important to watch partner’s signal. Partner must tell you if it is safe to continue leading your suit. With no help in hearts, how should
East signal at trick one? East should play the ♥2 — a low, discouraging card. ‘Tis the season for giving gifts, but not at the bridge table, and the
♥2 signal warns West not to present the gift of a cheap overtrick to declarer.
Declarer’s holdup play to entice West to continue leading hearts has a name — the Bath Coup. Two hundred years ago, the British upper classes went to the town of Bath in the west of England to enjoy the hot springs and to play whist, the ancestor of bridge. This holdup play dates fromthose days and was perhaps discovered by a vacationing whist player.