Test Your Play


♠ A Q 9 3
4 2
Q 10 5
♣ A J 10 6
♠ K J 10 7 2
A K 6
8 3 2
♣ K 5
West North East South
1♣ Pass 1♠
Pass 2♠ Pass 4♠
All Pass

Opening lead: Q. You win and play a spade to the ace, and a spade to the jack. How do you play if spades are 2–2? How do you play if spades are 3–1, each defender having the spade length?


If spades are 2–2, play the ♣K, ♣A and ruff a club. If the queen is doubleton, you make two overtricks. If the queen is third, you can discard one diamond on an established club and make an overtrick. If the queen does not appear, cash the K, ruff a heart, ruff a club (stripping clubs and hearts), and lead a diamond to the 10. If West has the jack or if East has K–J or A–J doubleton, you make an overtrick.

If spades are 3–1, draw the last trump, and play the ♣K, ♣A and ruff a club, again making two overtricks if the queen is doubleton and one overtrick if the queen is third. If the queen has not appeared, lead a diamond to the 10. You don’t have the luxury of stripping the hand when spades are 3–1.

A reckless matchpoint player might even risk a low club to the 10 at trick two! If it wins, you take 11 or 12 tricks depending upon West’s club length. If it loses, it might be difficult for East to shift to a diamond with any number of diamonds holdings. For all East knows you may have:
♠ K x x x x   A K x  A x x  ♣x x
♠ K x x x x   A K x  K x x  ♣x x
partner holding ♣K x x x, in which case you are planning to ruff out the ♣K and, failing that, attack diamonds. If East fails to shift to a diamond, you can draw trumps and discard two diamonds on established clubs and take 11 tricks.

2. Matchpoints

♠ A K 9 7 5 4 3
A Q 3
10 6 4
♣ —
♠ Q J 10 8 6 2
8 6
A 7 2
♣ J 3
West North East South
Pass 6♠ All Pass

Talk about good trump support! West leads the ♣A. Plan the play.


Start by ruffing the club, crossing to your hand with the A and ruffing your remaining club, Next, back to your hand with a trump, take the heart finesse (which has to work), cash the A, ruff a heart and lead a diamond.

The reason you led a diamond to the ace at trick two (key play) is that by playing the A early, a defender with K–x may be caught unawares and fail to unblock. You still have chances, however, even if neither player had K–x. If either player started with two honors doubleton (Q–J, K–J or K–Q), that player will be endplayed upon winning the second diamond and forced to give you a ruff and sluff.

Furthermore, when you lead a second diamond from your hand towards 10–x in dummy, if West started with K–J–x–x–x and East Q–x, West must hop up with the K (a crocodile coup) to get East off the ensuing endplay.

Thanks to Ron Popp of Arlington Heights IL for this one.