1. Matchpoints

Dlr:
North
Vul:
Both
North
♠ J 3
A K Q 7
A Q 4
♣ K Q J 4
South
♠ A 9 7 6
J 10
K J 10 9 3
♣ 7 6
 WEst North East South 2♣ Pass 2♦ Pass 2NT Pass 3♣ Pass 3♥ Pass 4♦ Pass 5♦ Pass 6♦ All Pass

West leads the ♠2 to East’s ♠K. You’ve been cursed with the killing lead. Can you recover? Plan the play.

Your options are limited. Translation: You need a minor miracle. Make that several minor miracles.

Win the opening lead, draw two rounds of trumps, leaving the queen in dummy, and play four rounds of hearts. For starters, you need the player with the long trumps to have at least four hearts. Assuming this happens, discard two clubs on the hearts and then run the ♣K through East. Assuming East has the ace and plays it, ruff, and enter dummy with the Q. If East ducks the ♣A, discard a spade and run the ♣Q. All you need are two club tricks.

If diamonds were 3–2, you have 12 tricks: Five diamonds, four hearts, two clubs and a spade. If diamonds were 4–1, besides everything else, you need the player with the long diamonds and the long hearts to have three clubs. Listen, something is better than nothing.

Thanks to Al Blinder, Torrance CA, for this one.

2. Matchpoints

Dlr:
West
Vul:
None
North
♠ A 7 2
J 7 5 4
A Q
♣Q 7 5 3
South
♠ K 6 3
K 6
K J 10 9 8 5 4
♣ 4
 WEst North East South Pass 1♣ 1♠ 2♦ 2♥ Pass Pass 3♦ All Pass

Making 3 with nine top tricks is not the problem. The idea is to come up with a reasonable play that will net you an overtrick. Plan the play after winning the first spade with the king, East encouraging with the ♠8.

Given that the ♠8 usually denies the ♠9, it is safe to assume that the lead was from the 10–9 doubleton. Furthermore, with Q–J–9–8–x–(x), East might have overtaken. In any case, your next play from dummy must be a club to cut communications for a third-round spade trick.

Say East wins the club exit cheaply and plays the ♠Q to your king and West’s expected 9. Now what?

Things are looking up, as West is marked with the A Q, so now play a heart to the king and ace. West exits with a diamond (best) which you win in dummy. Ruff a club and lead a second heart to West’s queen. West exits with a second trump, which you win in dummy and play the J. East, not having any trumps, can’t ruff, and West must follow. The spade is finally discarded and the overtrick made.

The key play is the club at trick two.

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