Hand of the Week
West leads the ♣Q, and you see you have 11 winners. Obviously, if East has the ♥K, you have 12 tricks. Can you improve your chances of making the contract?
The only additional possibility for a 12th trick is to set up a second trick in diamonds. If diamonds are 4-3, generally you will need three entries to ruff diamonds and fourth to enjoy the long diamond. That’s the case here:
You begin cashing the ♦A and ruffing a diamond with the ♠Q, just in case the trumps are favorable. Now, how can you conjure three trump entries to the dummy? One possibility is to lead the ♠6 to dummy’s 7. When West started with a doubleton 10 in trumps, the ♠7 would give you your first entry. You could later lead the ♠9 to the ♠J and finally the ♠2 to the ♠4, achieving three entries in trumps.
The main difficulty with this is that when the finesse of the ♠7 fails you will lose an unnecessary trick in the trump suit, going down even when the ♥K is onside. Secondly, if you lead the ♠6 intending to finesse, West might insert the ♠10 on the first round, forcing dummy’s jack and limiting you to only one more dummy entry in trumps.
A better idea is to lead the ♠9 to the jack on the first round of trumps. This benefits you when the ♠10 is singleton, without giving the defenders any extra chance in exchange. On the diagrammed deal, you win with dummy’s ♠J and ruff another diamond high. You then lead the ♠6 to dummy’s 7 and ruff another diamond high, setting up the suit. Finally you overtake your ♠2 with the 4 and enjoy a heart discard on the long diamond. You can even try for an overtrick by finessing the ♥Q (of course you will be more than happy when the finesse fails).
As the cards lay, your entry-creating play (leading the ♠9 on the first round of trumps) was necessary to make the slam. So, whenever three trump entries are available to dummy you can establish a diamond for a discard whenever the suit break 4-3.
If there are only two trump entries to the dummy, you can set up a discard (or two) on the diamonds only when a defender began with ♦K Q doubleton or tripleton. Otherwise you must fall back on the heart finesse.
If trumps were 3-0, there would be only one trump entry to dummy and you would have to take the heart finesse immediately after the ♠J won.