(1) Game force.
(2) 0 or 3 key cards.
(4) ♠Q + ♦K.
West leads the ♠4, East playing the 7. Plan the play.
You are cold if trumps are 2–2 as you can ruff your fourth diamond in dummy. You are cold if hearts are 4–3 as you can set up a long heart for a diamond pitch. If those two things don’t happen, you are cold if there is a red-suit squeeze. This comes to 90%, but you can do better!
Win the opening lead in the closed hand, cross to the ♥A and ruff a heart with the ♠6 (this should live as East didn’t open 2♥), cross to the ♦K and ruff a heart high. If everyone follows you can set up the long heart easily enough. If someone shows out on the third heart, cross to clubs twice and ruff two more hearts high. You have now reversed the dummy by ruffing four hearts in the closed hand. Your last four cards are the ♠2 and the ♦A Q 4. Dummy has the ♠K Q and the ♦7 3. Cross to a trump and discard your losing diamond on the last trump. You have just improved your chances by at least 6%!
There is one trap. You must cross to clubs twice to ruff hearts not using a trump entry first. To see why, look at the East-West hands. If you enter dummy with a trump, West will be able to discard three clubs on three heart ruffs and you won’t be able to enter dummy the second time with a club to draw the last trump. When you lead a second club, West will follow with a black card, but it won’t be a club, it will be a trump!
Thanks to Scott Cardell of Pullman WA for this construction.
(1) Two key cards without the ♥Q.
West leads the ♦K. East playing ♦4. Plan the play.
The contract is cold if hearts break 2–2, with an overtrick in your future if spades break 3–3, as well. There is no play if hearts break 4–0, so you must zero in on possible 3–1 hearts.
If hearts break 3–1, you are going to have to find the player with the length in hearts to have four spades, as you cannot make the hand if spades are 3–3. The player with the long heart
will ruff the fourth spade and cash a diamond. Translation: You are going to have to lead a spade to the 10 if hearts are 3–1.
Win the ♦A and lead the ♥A and a heart to the king. Say East has three hearts: So you need to find East with ♠J x x x, as well. Lead a spade to the 10, cash the ♠Q, play the ♣A and a club to dummy and run the winning spades discarding all of your diamonds. The best East can do is ruff the fifth spade, but that’s too late.
Say West has three hearts. Now you must find West with four baby spades and East with J–x. In dummy with the ♥K, lead a spade to the 10. Cash
the ♠Q, and assuming the jack falls, play the ♣A, a club to the king and discard three diamonds on winning spades. Once again West can ruff the fifth spade, but as before, it’s just too late. You’ve discarded your three remaining diamonds.
There are several key plays to notice:
- You should play two rounds of trumps at tricks two and three ending in dummy rather than the closed hand.
- Playing the ♣A and a club to the king rather than a club to the king before running the spades.
The reason for No 2 is this: Say East has three hearts along with or ♠J x x. As mentioned, East ruffs the third or fourth spade and leads a diamond to West’s queen for down one. So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that East may not have another diamond! East may have started with a 3=3=1=6 pattern. If East ruffs an early spade, he must lead a club. You can ruff the club in your hand and discard dummy’s diamond. Dummy is high.