By Andrew Robson
Courtesy of AndrewBobson.co.uk
Piecing together the shapes of the missing hands is so crucial. You move from complete uncertainty to complete certainty as the deal progresses. Each time an opponent shows out of a suit, you move from partial information (‘he has at least two hearts’) to total information (‘he has precisely two hearts’).
So when an opponent discards, stop and reassess what you know. It just may be that this is the tipping point: that now you can work out the precise shapes of the opposing hands.
On our 3 NT deal West, who has advertised six spades by his Weak Two, leads ♠ 7, which goes to East’s ♠ 10 and your ♠ Q. Unable to lose the lead – or there’ll be a flurry of spades – you need four club tricks. However there is no rush to play clubs. Best to garner as much information as possible, for that might affect how clubs should be played.
At tricks two and three you lead out ♥ AK (you might equally lead out ♦ AK). Both opponents follow to the first heart, but West discards (♠ 2) on the second.
Stop. So West began with just one heart – and six spades.
Now cash ♦ AK to see if anything interesting happens there. It does. West follows to the first diamond, then discards (♣ 4) on the second.
Stop. So West began with just one diamond, in addition to one heart and six spades. Ergo – you can work out how many clubs he holds. He must have five clubs in a 6 ♠-1 ♥ -1 ♦ -5 ♣ shape. East therefore holds just one club.
You don’t know what East’s club is and there is the awkwardness of getting back to hand for a second finesse if you lead ♣ A first. There are four low clubs, one singleton ♣ 10 and one singleton ♣ Q One idea is to lead to ♣ 9, hoping his singleton is low (four out six); if ♣ 9 wins, to cross back to ♣ A (East discarding), then finesse ♣ J.
There’s a better way, which will not risk losing ♣ 9 to East’s singleton ♣ 10/♣ Q. Cash ♣ A (here, East follows low) then lead to ♣ 9 (knowing East will discard). You have no way back to hand to finesse against West’s ♣ Q, but instead you exit with ♠ 5. Let West take ♠ AJ96, for at trick 12 he has ♣ Q10. You beat his exit of ♣ 10 with dummy’s ♣ J and cash ♣ K felling ♣ Q. Nine tricks and game made – you play them so well – but actually it’s a simple counting exercise.