2. Played as a strong heart raise.
Opening lead: ♦10. Assuming the lead is a singleton (it sure looks like it), how do you play?
You have a legitimate play for this contract, needing only a minor (not a major) miracle. Your minor miracle consists of playing West for three trumps and the ♣J. Win the ♦A, cash the ♠A, draw two rounds of hearts ending in your hand, and lead a diamond. If West ruffs, and exits a spade, ruff in dummy discarding a club, cross to the ♣A and discard your remaining club on dummy’s fifth diamond, being sure to unblock the jack on the third round. If West exits a club instead, surely West cannot have the ♣K, as he would simply let partner win the third diamond and lead a club, so stick in the 10. There goes one of your club losers and the other goes off on dummy’s fifth diamond. Clearly, West should discard on the second diamond and not ruff air. After West discards, win the king and exit a diamond to East’s queen, unblocking your jack Now what can East lead holding the ♣K? If East exits a club, run it to the queen, cross to the ♣A, draw West’s last trump and discard your remaining club loser on dummy’s fifth diamond. If East exits a spade, discard a club, ruff in dummy, cross to the ♣A, draw West’s remaining trump, and discard your remaining losing club on dummy’s long diamond. Nor does it help for West to ruff partner’s good diamond, as any black-suit exit cedes the contract.
West leads the ♦2 (fourth best). East wins the ace and returns the 3 to your king. Plan the play.
It looks like you have two chances: the ♠Q doubleton or the ♥K onside, but you can do better, particularly if West has the ♣A.
Cross to the ♠K, (using the 5 or 6) and lead a club to the king. On a good day, West will win and perhaps get out safely with a diamond to your queen as you discard a heart from dummy. Now it is safe to lead a second spade (the 5 or 6) to dummy’s ace. If both follow, keep running clubs. If East ruffs in with the queen, you need to find East with the ♥K as well. If West ruffs, West is endplayed and has to lead a heart or give you a ruff and a sluff. Either return allows you to come out on top. The idea is not to cash the ♠A K (unblocking the 5 and 6) before driving out the ♣A. This could allow West to win, perhaps cash the ♠Q, and exit safely with a club, clutching the heart king, the setting trick.
If the ♣K holds, cash the ♦Q and get out with the ♣J. If East wins, he will surely return a heart if he doesn’t have the king, so you will have to find the ♠Q doubleton. Of course you run the risk of East having five clubs and returning a club allowing West to ruff. Now you not only need the ♥K with East, but West ruffing with the long trump (or the queen) as well.
And what if spades are 4–1? Did you have to ask? Well, you can’t do anything about West having Q–10–x–x of spades, but you are alive if East has four along with the ♥K. This will be the position after three rounds of diamonds, two rounds of clubs and two rounds of spades have been played, West showing out on the second spade:
At this point, you know East started with four spades, four diamonds, at least two clubs and the ♥K (presumed). In order to get a count on hearts, play a third club. If East follows, discard a middle heart and play a fourth club. If East discards a heart, he is down to the blank king, so lead a spade, and East has no answer. If
East discards a diamond on the fourth club, meaning East remains with K–x of hearts, discard another middle heart, and lead the ♥Q. If East covers,
win, return to the ♥9, and lead a spade. If East doesn’t cover the ♥Q, lead a spade. The most you can lose is one more trick.
So what is unblocking the ♠5 and ♠6 all about? Say when you lead a third club, East ruffs with the ♠Q and gets out with the ♠10 to your jack. It would be nice to be able to enter dummy with a spade and take the heart finesse wouldn’t it? And that is why you kept the ♠2. You did keep it, didn’t you?