Test Your Play

1. Matchpoints

♠ A 8 5
K Q 8
♣ J 7 6 5
♠ Q 7 3
9 8
A 9 6 5
♣ A K Q 4
WEst North East South
Pass 6NT> All Pass

Opening lead: ♣10. East plays the ♣2. Plan the play.


Start by playing four rounds of clubs ending in dummy and watch the discards. For example, someone with five hearts might discard two hearts.

You now have to give yourself the best chance of scoring eight tricks in the other three suits. Diamonds is a two-way suit (i.e., when you cash the K Q in dummy, the suit can be played in two different ways if West plays the 10 or jack on the second diamond), so save that suit until you get a little more information. Start with a low spade to the queen.

If the ♠Q loses to the king, you basically need to take four diamond tricks, plus the heart finesse must work. If West plays the 10 or jack on the second diamond, the percentage play is the finesse, particularly if West started with the club length.

On a cheerier note, say that East wins the ♠K and gets out with a spade. Now, instead of needing both the diamonds and hearts to come in, you have 12 tricks if you can manage four diamond tricks or three heart tricks. But first cash a third spade to get a better count on that suit. And it can’t hurt to cash the A.

Next play the K Q. Assuming nothing happens, lead a diamond to the ace. If diamonds are 3–3, you have 12 tricks. If East has the diamond length, take the heart finesse. If West has the diamond length, you are down to a two-card ending. You have a losing diamond and a heart, and dummy has the K J. West is known to have a high diamond, so when you lead a heart, if West doesn’t play the queen, play the king from dummy and hope to drop the queen from East. Do not hold your breath.

The real problem arises when West plays the 10 or J on the second diamond. Should you finesse the 9 or should you go up with the ace and take the heart finesse if the diamonds don’t break? It depends upon your assumed or known count in the black suits plus what you have surmised from the discards. The more cards West has outside of diamonds, the more likely it is that he has J x or 10 x, so take the finesse. If the other three suits seem evenly divided, however, go up with the ace and take the heart finesse if necessary. I have complete confidence in you.


♠ J 10 8 3
A J 10 5 3
7 6 5
♣ J
♠ A K Q 9 7 2
K 8 2
♣ A K 7
WEst North East South
Pass 3♠(1) Pass 4NT(2)
Pass 5♣(3) Pass 6♠
All Pass

(1) Limit.
(2) Roman Key Card Blackwood.
(3) One key card.

You get a trump lead and East follows. Plan the play.


This is a deal from my book “Take All Your Chances.” You should try to ruff out the K doubleton or third and, failing that, lead up to the K, about a 67% chance.

The play should go something like this: Win the spade high in your hand, lead the Q to the ace and ruff a heart high. If no king appears, cross back to a spade and ruff the J hoping East covers with K–x–x–x. Fat chance. Assuming East plays low, ruff the heart. If no king appears, play the ♣A K, discarding a diamond from dummy, ruff a club, and lead a diamond towards your king. If East has the A, you make the slam. If West has it, tomorrow is another day.

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