But what if they are 4-1?
This deal was played in 2018 in China during the World Youth Team championships. South held:
♠A J 4 ♥K Q 10 3 ♦9 2 ♣K Q 5 3
His partner opened 1♦ and he responded 1♥, raised to 4♥. Some of my newer students mistakenly think of that as a “close-out” bid, but it is anything but. Opener is showing about 19–20 points in support. One young player now used Roman key card Blackwood and, finding three key cards and one king, he (the optimism of youth) bid 7♥. The ♠7 was led.
What is the plan? If trumps are 3–2, the contract is a claim. Draw trump and throw a spade from dummy on declarer’s fourth club. Dummy is now high (other than the ♦7, which gets ruffed with declarer’s fourth heart).
So, what if hearts are 4–1? This is such a common question, that it is the title of the article.
If the ♥J drops singleton, things are easier, but what if an opponent has ♥J x x x? If it is West, declarer can lay down the ♥K Q, getting the news, and take a marked finesse against West’s jack. If East has ♥J x x x, the ♥K and then ♥A reveal the break and allow for a marked finesse. So, which shall it be?
That depends on the plan for the deal. If indeed hearts are 4–1, where will declarer want to take a ruff? The only way to ruff a spade in dummy is to draw trump first and then run clubs. However, if trumps are 4–1, that is unlikely to work. On the other hand, a ruff in hand of the ♦7 can be taken without having to draw trump first. Therein lies the answer. Declarer should win the ♠A and cash the ♥K. When everyone follows low, he should next play the ♥Q. Why? If trumps are 3–2, he can claim (draw the last trump). But, if RHO shows out, he is still alive. If LHO shows out, he was never realistically making the contract – unless he had hand records. Next comes the ♦A K and then the ♦7 ruffed with the ♥10. If this lives, declarer now plays a heart to the 9 for the marked finesse and then the ♥A to claim 13 tricks.
Confession: On the Real Deal, hearts were 3–2, but for my readers, this is the Real Deal to be concerned about: