Dear Rebecca, We're playing teams, so the over-tricks don't matter. My partner is in 4H. On a spade lead he sees in dummy: AKx....Q87....Jx......AK87x, opposite his Qx....A1098x....Ax....J9xx. Contrary to all expectations he went one off bemoaning a 4-1 heart break, and a 3-1 club break, whilst deep finesse says 12 tricks were on. Anyway, what is the safest line to take to steer this contract home. Yous still a bit miffed by his play, Ronald
Dear Ronnie, I'm a bit perplexed as to that why he failed to make a fairly straightforward contract. Initially, there appears to be 4 losers (1C, 1D and 2H ), but the diamond loser can go away on the 3rd round of spades, which will surely stand up. Given the layout of the cards, the double heart finesse restricts the heart losers to just 1. Moreover, if hearts are breaking 4-1 in one hand, the odds favour the clubs breaking 3-1 in the other ( Principle of Symmetry ) .
Nevertheless, care is needed to restrict the hearts losers to no more than 2. After 3 rounds of spades, you're over in dummy to run the 8 of hearts at trick 4. So lets look at what happens if your RHO has four to the king ( worst case scenario ). Your LHO will win with his stiff jack. No big deal. Inevitably a diamond will come flying back which you take with your Ace. Now you must play an unblocking 9 of clubs to dummy's Ace, which according to you sees your RHO play the 10 ( a singleton no doubt ). Again, no big deal. Now play the heart queen, which will pick up the king, either now or later, proceeding of course to clear hearts in the process. Then run the jack of clubs .....if it loses against a Q10 doubleton ( worst scenario ) so what....... you're bound to come home with 3C, 3H, 1D, a diamond ruff, 3S
If the hearts are breaking 4-1 off-side, then sure enough the queen will lose to the king, but on a diamond return you ruff, take out the remaining trumps, and take on the improbable club finesse. I know this means your RHO was dealt two singletons, but if successful you make 3H (including the diamond ruff ), 3S, 1D and 4C. If the 3-1 club break is the other way, the contract was always doomed. The 2-2 split of course never happens when you want it to.
But what if, at trick 2, you decide instead to lead a low heart towards dummy's 8, losing to the jack ? Back comes the diamond. So you rise with the Ace, go over to dummy's boss spades to pitch your losing diamond away, and then run the queen of hearts, picking up the king if your RHO has it, with again only a possible club to lose. If the queen loses to the off-side King to four, no doubt another diamond will come back. Again, it's a case of ruffing, clearing trumps and running the jack of clubs this time, to finesse the queen, putting all your hopes on pinning your RHO's stiff 10.
My philosophy on hands like this is simple ; if one suit behaves badly, then the other might not. If both happen to be wrong, then your score will be no different from any of the others. Yours Rebecca