West leads the ♠J. What’s your plan to take 12 tricks?
You have 11 tricks on top: two spades, three hearts, four diamonds and two clubs. If you can get another trick in clubs, you’re home — but what’s the right way to tackle the suit?
It may look right to simply play a low club toward your hand to finesse the jack. Many would even be tempted to play the ♣A first and then take the finesse. These players reason that even if the finesse loses, the suit may break 3–2, allowing declarer to score three tricks in the suit. On this layout, however, that plan would be disastrous. Was this play unlucky or inferior? The answer: inferior.
There is a way to guarantee three club tricks regardless of the layout of the suit. With this particular holding, A–9–x–x opposite K–J–x–x, the right play (a safety play) is to start with the king. If both opponents follow, play a low club toward dummy, intending to play the 9 if West plays low.
What if West has the singleton and East has Q–10–x–x? It makes no difference. Start with the king and play a low club on the next round of the suit. If West shows out, go up with the ace and play a low club toward your jack. East can take the queen, but that’s all.