The Real Deal

This deal was computer-generated and played on my Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale FL cruise early in 2010.The South players held:

♠A Q 10 8 7 5    K Q 4  K 7     ♣8 3

With neither side vulnerable, your 1♠ opening gets doubled. Partner raises to 2♠. It’s a bit of a stretch, but let’s say you wanted to try for game. Any suit you bid requests some help from partner. I like 3 (if partner has x–x–x in hearts, game is likely to have no chance). Partner accepts your try by bidding 4♠. The ♣K is led and you see:
Dlr: South
Vul: None
♠ K J 4
J 9 7 5
6 5 3
♣ A 6 5
♠ A Q 10 8 7 5
K Q 4
K 7
♣ 8 3

West North East South
Dbl 2♠ Pass 3
Pass 4♠ All Pass

Partner has heart help and a maximum (he might have chosen to have bid 4, but you would have corrected to 4♠, anyway). What is your plan of play on this ♣K lead?

You have to lose at least one club and the two red aces. If the A is with East (unlikely, given West’s takeout double), you will make the contract easily. Should you draw trump and play for the diamond to be sitting right?

No. You have a chance to get rid of a diamond on dummy’s hearts. In the process, you don’t want East to ever get the lead to shoot a diamond through your king.

Accordingly, the key play is to duck the first trick. If you win the ♣A, you are doomed (as you will soon see). Let’s say you duck and West continues clubs. Now what?

You win of course, and need to draw trump. But how? In case they are 2–2, you should make sure to leave dummy with a high one. So, take the ♠A and ♠K (leaving the jack in dummy as an entry). The suit indeed splits 2–2. And next?

You might as well eliminate the clubs by ruffing dummy’s last club — maybe this will cut down on the exit cards for the defense. Next, you will work on hearts. You play the K which West ducks. When you try the Q, West wins with the A. He can’t profitably play a minor, so he plays a low heart. Decision time!

You could win the J and make the contract if either the 10 falls, or the A is onside. Because West made a takeout double, however, he is a favorite to hold the A, and also four hearts. So at the table, I would probably finesse the 10. Maybe this is unfair, because I do happen to know the Real Deal — and you can see that this is the winning play:

♠ Q 3
6 3
A K J 10 9 8
♣ J 3 2
♠ K 9 2
K J 9 5
♣ K Q 10 9 6

The heart finesse wins and you throw a diamond on the J to make your contract.

Notes: Could West have had A 6 2, or could East have held the A? Yes. So, the suggested line of play was not a sure thing. If you trust East to have given honest count, you would have an easier guess in the heart suit. Before guessing hearts, you could play out all your trumps — West may give
the show away with his discards. Also: What happens if you win the first club trick? East signals with the jack (throwing an honor shows the card directly beneath it). Now, when West wins his A, he crosses to East’s ♣10 for a diamond through — down you go.