On the ♣K lead, East plays the ♣2 (count) and West continues with the ♣3 to East’s ace. East returns a club which you ruff and West follows with the 9. Plan the play.
The defense begins with three rounds of clubs, and it seems that West started with four, East with three. Next, run the ♥J. You can stand to lose a heart trick to East, but if hearts are 4–1, you cannot stand to lose a heart to West, who can shorten you by playing the ♣Q upon gaining the lead. If East wins the ♥Q, there is no return that can hurt you. If a heart or a diamond comes back, it is easy enough to arrange a spade ruff in dummy and draw trumps.
However, if you lead a heart to the king at trick four, or if you enter dummy with a side-suit at trick four and lead a heart to the jack and find West with Q–x–x–x of hearts and the
♣Q comes flying back, you are in trouble. Big trouble. Unless you find West with a 2=4=3=4 pattern, (don’t hold your breath), a distribution that allows you to cash three diamonds
and ruff a spade in dummy, you’re down.
Thanks to Steve Schnollnick of Metairie LA for this one.
(1) Four hearts.
West leads the ♥A followed by the ♥2 to East’s king. Plan your matchpoint play.
Since you are a mortal lock to make six if spades break 2–2 (both minor-suit kings must be with West), testing trumps should be your first move.
If spades break 2–2, you can actually claim 12 tricks, but let’s play it out. Cash the ♣A and lead the ♣Q and assume West covers. You ruff in dummy. If East follows to both clubs, one more club ruff sets up the suit.
If East started with a singleton ♣8 or ♣9, you can take the ruffing finesse in clubs the next time you are in your hand and again, that’s that.
The worst-case scenario finds East with a singleton low club. If that’s the case, West started with a 2=4=2=5 pattern and you still have the rest. After ruffing a high club and getting the bad news, ruff a heart and lead a diamond to the queen, cash the ♦A, which should drop the king, and run the ♦10 through East. Again, 12 tricks: five spades in your hand, two clubs, two club ruffs in dummy and three diamonds.
And what if spades are 3–1? I was afraid you were going to ask. If East, the most likely suspect, has three spades, West is likely to be 1=4=3=5. With 1=4=4=4, many open 1♦. I’m afraid you have to give up on making six and may have to settle for five. Cash the ♠A Q and when you discover that East has the long trump,
switch gears and lead a low club to the jack. If West wins and return a heart, ruff, ruff a low club with the ♠K, return to your hand with the ♠J and run the clubs. If West goes
up with the ♣K and returns a club, ruff with the ♠K, return to your hand with a trump, etc. In other words, if West wins the ♣K, you make one overtrick, but if West ducks the club, return to your hand with a trump and play the ♣Q. Assume West covers and you ruff with dummy’s last trump. If East follows, you have the rest. If East shows out, ruff a heart reducing to the ♣A 10 7 6 and a diamond. West must reduce to three clubs and two diamonds, one of which you know is the king. Cash your two winning clubs, take the diamond finesse, and cash the ace.
If West started with the ♦K J x, you have the rest. If not, you make an overtrick.
Thanks to Jon Shuster of Gainesville FL for this one.