Dan Romm

Play Problem

What is the best way to play the following hand at MP’s?




8 5 2


A Q J 10 7 5 4 2

South (you)

A 9 8 7 6 4 3 2


J 10 7 2


Contract – 4 (no adverse bidding)

Opening lead – nine of clubs

Note that after pitching a heart on the Ace of clubs you have three diamond losers and perhaps also a trump trick or two.


The lead is obviously a singleton or doubleton. It appears that the best line is to take the free finesse and then lead a spade to the king, pitching a heart loser on clubs and also a diamond loser (if the lead is a doubleton) as West ruffs, maybe even with a natural trump trick if he started with three trumps. But this is an illusion. If West started with three trumps (which is likely given his club lead) you will lose TWO trump tricks via a subsequent uppercut when East gets in with a diamond (he must have the Ace or king since West didn’t lead one) and leads another club, so you will still go down. Thus this line is no better than winning the Ace at trick one pitching a heart, leading a spade to the king, ruffing a heart and leading the Ace of spades. Both lines make if trumps split and go down if they don’t (except in the unlikely case that West is 1-1 in the black suits and never bid).

But there is a slightly better line against weak (but not strong) opponents, especially if you think the lead is a doubleton. Win the Ace at trick one pitching a heart, cash the king of spades and lead the queen of diamonds even though this line (but not the others) will risk the contract if trumps split whenever East started with a singleton club and the opponents find the uppercut!

Why? To begin with, they may not find it – i.e. if East ducks with the diamond king. Also, a singleton club is less likely than a doubleton. But more importantly, leading a diamond has a big advantage against weak opponents (but gains nothing against strong ones) – you have not revealed that you are out of hearts and the secret will be kept for at least another trick if the opponent who wins the diamond does not lead a heart. This is quite likely whenever the club lead was a doubleton since either side can safely lead a club (the king if it is East). Furthermore, you needn’t fear a diamond ruff since then your remaining diamond will be a winner.

Now you ruff the club return, cash the Ace of spades hoping trumps split and then play the jack of diamonds. A lesser opponent will probably win the diamond and return one because this will seem safer to West than breaking hearts (since he didn’t lead one) and also to East unless he holds touching honors (note – he can’t have no honor since West didn’t lead hearts). Having never ruffed a heart your hand is not an open book, so when you run all your spades these opponents will probably pitch diamonds and save hearts to protect their honors (as did my opponents when I played the hand) and you will make five for a top board!


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