I play bridge on Bridgebase.com regularly and from time to time an instructive hand appears This play problem came up recently and can be instructive to beginning and intermediate players. Here are the hands:
The auction was straightforward and simple. South opened one no trump, North, with 8 points and a fair five card suit, bid two no trump and South accepted the game invitation by bidding three no trump. West leads a spade, of course. How do you plan your play?
Let’s start, as always, by counting our tricks. We have two tricks in spades and can develop two in diamonds. We’ll need 5 club tricks as well. The obvious thing is to play West for Qx or Qxx in clubs. So let’s say we play the King of clubs and continue with a club to the Jack. That holds. Yay! We have nine tricks! Or do we?
After we run the clubs and then lead the Queen of diamonds opponents win and return a second spade. We can lead a diamond to dummy’s Jack but our King of diamonds is stranded. We’ll have to try and come to hand with a heart. If spades were 5-3 we’re sunk already. If spades were 4-4 we’ll need some luck in the heart suit to make our contract. Not a very appealing situation. And also an avoidable one.
Since we always need the clubs to come home that suit can wait. Our first move is to lead a diamond to the Queen, and then the Jack if need be. When the opponents take the ace and return the inevitable spade we are now set. We are in our hand. Now we can cash the good diamond king before tackling clubs.
Timing is often the important factor in playing a hand. It is necessary to know the proper way to develop a suit, but it is just as important to know when to play a suit. The declarer has to play out the hand in his mind, looking for pitfalls, traps and obstacles. When a tree appears in the road it’s time to back up and look for a detour. Often a simple change in the sequencing of plays will reveal the line of play most likely to succeed on a given hand.