Hand of the Week
North’s bidding promised four spades. West leads the ♦Q to dummy’s ace, and East follows with the 2, indicating an odd number of diamonds. As your hand does not fit well with dummy’s, there seems only a slim chance of developing your total of seven winners into nine tricks. What is the best way of achieving that outcome?
As the diamonds appear to be 5-3, there is little point in playing on clubs. Against best defense, that approach all but requires East to have begun with exactly 4=3=3=3 shape along with ♠K J or ♠K 10 and with ♣K Q J.
A better plan is to attack spades in such a way that you can make three tricks from the suit when it lies favorably. Most of the time, this will require East to have started with a singleton ♠K or with precisely ♠K 7, ♠K 5 or ♠K 2. Suppose the full deal is:
On this layout, you must lead the ♠8 (or 9) at trick two, planning to run it if East follows with a low spade. On the next round of spades, you will cash the ace and, felling East’s ♠K. As a result, dummy’s ♠Q 9 will provide two tricks as you will take a winning finesse against West’s remaining spade honor.
The defense will fare no better if East plays his ♠K at trick two. You will win the ♠A and lead a low spade towards dummy’s ♠Q 9 4, planning to duck when West plays the ♠J or ♠10. On the deal shown, this will leave you with the ♠Q 9 over West’s remaining honor, providing your eighth and ninth tricks. (If West plays a low card a trick three, you will play the ♠9 and have your eighth trick immediately with the ♠Q to come.
You will make nine tricks also when East began with either ♠K J or ♠K 10 doubleton and he follows to the first trick with his lower honor. You will let that card hold, and the king will fall under the ace, leaving you in a position to take two more tricks with dummy’s ♠Q 9.
Incidentally, this is why East should play the ♠K at trick two when holding it singly guarded, reducing declarer’s chance of making three tricks in the spade suit from five cases to three.)
Also, if West has the ♠K you can never make more than two tricks in the suit. If it was singleton or doubleton, East would have a spade stopper to prevent you cashing more than two tricks in the suit. Whenever West has at least ♠K x x, he can deny you a third spade trick by withholding his ♠K until the third round of the suit.