The Evening News – Aug 21, 1986

Assume you’re declarer at six hearts and West leads he king of diamonds. How would you play the hand?

North dealer. Both sides vulnerable.

Lead: Diamond SuitK

When the deal ocurred, South took the diamond ace, ruffed the jack in dummy and then played the A-K of hearts, discovering he had to lose a trump trick. When the A-K of clubs failed to drop the Queen, declarer finished down one, losing a club and a heart.

South’s method of play depended essentially on a 2-2 heart division — a 40 percent chance — or failing that, finding the queen of clubs singleton or doubleton, about a 33 percent possibility. While these are by no means the longest of odds, the fact is that declarer could have greatly improved his chances of landing the slam.

South’s view from the outset should be that he has no control over whether he will lose a trump trick. Therefore, he should concentrate all his efforts on avoiding a club loser by attempting to establish an extra spade winner in dummy.

To achieve this goal declarer should win the first diamond, lead a spade to the ace and ruff a spade. After testing hearts with the A,K the king of spades is cashed. South discarding a club, and a fourth spade is led and ruffed. East discarding a diamond. This sequence of play establishes the nine of spades as a trick.

Only now South can afford to ruff the jack of diamonds in dummy. Then he leads the spade nine, discarding his remaining small club and the slam is home.

Basically, all declarer needs for this approach to succeed is a 4-3 spade break, better than a 60 percent proposition. And even if the spades divide 5-2 the slam is still safe if the hearts break 2-2 or the club queen falls, giving South an excellent chance to make the slam.