In today’s deal, played in a social game, declarer’s only concern was to find a sure line to secure nine tricks. Overtricks were irrelevant.

Dealr North Both Vul

K 5
J 9 5
K 8 5
A Q 10 9 3
J 4 3
K 7 6 4 2
A 10 3
8 7
A 7 6 2
8 3
J 9 6 4
6 5 4
Q 10 9 7
A Q 10
Q 7 2
K J 2
West North East South
1 2NT
Pass 3NT Pass Pass

Opening lead: 4

West led the 4, nine, eight (high to show an even number), queen. Declarer led the 7 to dummy’s king and East took his ace to return the 3.

Beverly Kraft & Eric Kokish
Beverly Kraft & Eric Kokish

Declarer won the ace and ran clubs. West had to find three discards; two diamonds are easy but his remaining discard would allow declarer to make the contract if he could guess the position. A heart discard would allow declarer to build a diamond trick safely as West could cash only two heart winners. West saw this coming and so made his first discard a spade, coming down to the singleton jack. Declarer duly finessed the 10, but West’s hand was high; two down.

Declarer had incorrectly guessed the endgame. A diamond play instead would not have worked, but the odds-against play of a spade to the queen (intending to play a diamond if the jack did not fall) would have succeeded, Was declarer simply unlucky to go set on the line he selected?

The short answer is “no.” If, at trick two, declarer leads a club to dummy to play the 5 away from the king, there is no defence to beat him. If East goes in with the A to clear hearts, declarer has two spade tricks, two hearts, and five clubs. If East ducks his ace, the Q wins and declarer builds a diamond for his ninth winner.

If West can take declarer’s Q with the ace he can’t attack hearts so must play either a diamond, giving declarer his ninth trick there, or a spade, giving declarer time to build a diamond while his ten-nine of spades stand guard against the jack.

The bottom line: if East has the A, lead the first spade “through” him because he might beat you if you lose an honour to him. If West has the A, any spade play works.