Puzzle This

North
♠ A Q 10 4
6 5 4
5 4 3 2
♣ 6 2
South
♠ J 9 2
K Q J 2
A K Q J
♣ A 3
 West North East South 2NT Pass 3♣ Pass 3♥ Pass 3NT All Pass

As South, you arrive in 3NT and West leads the 10, East following. You’ve somehow managed to avoid a potentially deadly club lead, so you want to make sure you don’t squander your good luck thus far. What do you play next?

View Solution
Count your tricks. You start with one spade, four diamonds and a club for six top tricks. If the spade finesse works, you’ll have nine tricks, but if it fails, you’ll only have eight (three spades, four diamonds and a club).

What can be done about this? As usual, a little treachery can help. Try stealing a heart trick by leading the J at trick two.

Why do this? The opponents don’t know you’re in a hurry to establish tricks, and a lazy opponent holding the A may not realize he needs to win the J right away and switch to a club. This is their best chance to beat you if the ♠K is offside. If the J is not covered, you can then take the spade finesse, not caring if it wins because you’ll have nine tricks (one heart, four diamonds, one club and at least three spades).

Note that if the opponents are alert and capture the J with the ace and then accurately switch to a club, you still have a chance to make 3NT — even with the ♠K offside — hearts break 3–3. So if the opponents win the J and if they switch to a club and if hearts are not 3–3 and if the ♠K is offside, you’ll go down. You can’t be that unlucky!

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