Eddie Kantar

Test Your Play

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Edited 3-2-13


Both sides vulnerable
Dealer North

S. 10942
H. A3
D. QJ6
C. AQ109    

H. Q5
D. AK5
C. J4

North             East             South             West
1C                 Pass               2S                  Pass
3S                 Pass               4D                  Pass
4H                 Dbl.                4NT                Pass
5H                 Pass              5NT (1)          Pass
6S(2)             Pass              Pass               Pass

(1) Specific kings
(2) None outside of spades

Opening lead: Nine of hearts.    Plan the play.


The West hand:  S. 8     H. 98742     D. 1098      C. 8632
The East hand:   S. 53   H. KJ106      D. 7432      C. K75

This one's a gimme.   With the HK marked in East all you need to to do is win the HA, draw trumps, strip the diamonds and exit a heart to East's king.   Now sit back and wait for a ruff and a sluff return or a club smack into dummy's AQ.    Next case.


When a lead directing double (East's double of 4H) tips off the location of an important missing honor, use that information to guide you in the play.


Dealer South
Vul: Neither

S. KJ32
H. A4
D. Q65
C. K843

S. A10654
H. K9
C. AJ6

South         West         North         East
2NT             Pass         3C             Pass
3S               Pass         6S             All Pass

Opening lead: HQ    Plan the play


The West hand:   S. 8      H. QJ1073  D. 9432  C. Q102
The East hand:    S. Q97  H. 8652      D. 1087  C. 975

The only way to go down on this hand is if the club finesse is offside and there is a spade loser.  However, even that misfortune can be overcome if you are willing to take a risk that diamonds are 4-3.

Win the opening in your hand, cross to the king of spades, cash the HA and now three rounds of diamonds ending dummy.    If nothing traumatic has happened thus far, lead a spade from dummy and if East follows, insert the 10.    If the 10 wins, you are playing for an overtrick; if it loses, West, now spadeless is endplayed.    If East shows out on the second spade, win the ace and exit a spade once again endplaying West.    What if somebody ruffs the second or third round of diamonds?    If West ruffs with a doubleton spade, West is endplayed.   If East or West ruffs holding holding three spades and gets out with a spade, you have to fall back on the club finesse.


When faced with a two-way finesse in the trump suit plus a possible outside loser if one particular defender gets the lead, strip the hand (if possible) and then take a trump finesse into the player who will be endplayed upon winning the trick.   Here you take the spade finesse into West because even if you lose to Qx, West can't lead a club safely.  However, if the clubs in dummy were KJxx facing Axx, start by cashing the SA and eventually finesse spades into East if West follows to the second spade. If you lose to the S Qx, East has to break clubs or give you a ruff and a sluff.   If West shows out on the second spade, win the king and toss East in with the SQ.  You've got them coming and going.


Dlr: North
Vul: Both

S. Q75
H. K102
D. KJ87
C. AK4

South (you)
S. K10843
H. AJ95
D. 1096
C. J

North          East                 South         West
1NT             Pass                 2C              Pass
2D               Pass                 2S*            Pass
3S               Pass                 4S              All Pass

*Forcing to 2NT or three of a major   (not many play this way nowadays)

Opening lead: Queen of diamonds

You cover smartly with the king, East wins the ace and returns the three of diamonds, West playing the deuce.     Plan the play.


The West hand:     S. 92         H. Q83     D. Q2         C. Q86532
The East hand:      S. AJ6      H. 764      D. A543     C. 1097

In order to minimize the danger of a diamond ruff, win the diamond return in dummy and lead a low spade towards your hand.    If East plays low, play the king.    If it holds, not much bad can happen to you; lead a second spade and if West follows, you might as well play the queen.   If it loses to the ace, as expected, and East gives West a diamond ruff, also as expected, that will be their last trick.

The trap is NOT to lead a spade to the queen.    If that loses and East gives West a diamond ruff, you are suddenly in the uncomfortable position of having to guess spades to make your contract since the opponents remain with two spades including the jack. 

Notice that if East jumps up with the SA at trick three and gives West a diamond ruff, you will have no trouble picking up the SJ because you have the queen and king of spades to draw the two outstanding trump.


When threatened with an adverse ruff missing the AJxxx of trump and no other losers, assume the PARTNER of the player who can ruff has the ace of trump and if your king and queen of trump are split between your hand and dummy, lead low towards an honor forcing the player with the likely ace of trump (in this case, East) to play second, not last, to the trick.


Dlr: West
Vul: Both

S. 9432
H. A84
D. QJ10
C. A52

S. KQ5
H. KQ10932
D. A5
C. 76

West          North          East         South
1D               Pass           Pass          2H*
Pass           4H               Pass        Pass 

*Intermediate strength

Opening lead:  KC.  Hearts are NOT 4-0.   Plan the play.


The West hand: S. A8            H. 6            D. K87643        C. KQ43
The East hand:  S. J1076       H. J75         D. 95                C. J1098

You are looking at 10 tricks: 6 hearts, 2 diamonds, one spade and one club.   

Best is to win the second club, cash the KH, and then make the key play of a LOW diamond.  There isn't much West can do after winning the king.   If he plays a third club, you ruff, cash a second high trump, play the DA, and enter dummy with a trump to discard a spade on a high diamond.    The reason for leading a low diamond instead of the ace and a diamond is that East might have a doubleton diamond.   If so,  then West can lead a third diamond for East to ruff before you can use your established diamond for a spade discard.   Sorrow.


At a trump contract, adverse trump still outstanding, with Ax facing QJx, and an unassailable side suit entry to the hand with the QJx, the safest play for two tricks (if the lead is in the Ax hand) is to lead low to the QJx guarding against a 6-2 break in either hand.



As declarer you frequently have distributional information picked up from the opening lead and the return.    In this quiz you will be given sufficient clues to answer the counting questions beneath the diagram.

Assume when you are playing a suit or notrump contract and the opponents are using fourth best leads.

    North (dummy)
    D. 973

   South (you)
   D. A106

1. West leads the D2.   How do you assume the diamonds are divided?

2. West leads the D2, East plays the J and you play low.    At trick two East returns the D4.   Now how do you assume the diamond are divided?

3. Given the sequence of plays in #2, how do you visualize the diamond honors around the table?

4. West leads the D4, East plays the DQ and you duck.    East returns the D8, you win the Ace and West plays the 2.   How do you think the diamonds are divided?

5. West leads the 4D, East plays the DJ and you play low.    East continues with the DK and West plays the D2.   How do you visualize the diamonds around the table?


1. Diamonds figure to be 4-3, West having 4.

2. It now looks like West has led from a three card suit and East has four.    If East had three diamonds, East would return his higher diamond.

3. It looks like East has QJxx and West Kxx.

4. It appears West has led from KJxxx and East has the Q8 doubleton.

5. It appears that West has led from a doubleton and East has KQJxx.    If East had KJ doubleton, East would have played the king first.


Dlr: South
Vul: Neither 

S. 10
H. KJ1054
D. K1092
C. KJ10

South (you)
S. QJ32
H. A
D. A65
C. Q8765

South         West         North         East
1C               Pass         1H             1S
Pass            2S            Dbl*          Pass
2NT              Pass        3NT           All Pass


Opening lead: S5

East wins the SA and returns the S6.   Which spade do you play and what is your plan?


The West hand:     S. K85         H. Q9876      D. J83         C. 42
The East hand:      S. A9764     H. 32             D. Q74         C. A93

The bidding tells you that the spades are 5-3 and it is likely that West has led from the Kxx.    If you play a spade honor at trick three, West will win and return a spade overtaken by East driving out your remaining honor.   When East, the likely holder of the CA, gets in, you will be defeated, East-West cashing four spades and a club.    The answer is to play low on East's spade return.    West can win cheaply and cash the SK, but you remain with a spade stopper and time to drive out the CA and develop nine tricks.


This is an unusual spade combination that it pays to be familiar with.

#27 Sporting Raise

Dlr: West
Vul: Both

S. 765
H. KJ105
D. J765
C Q5

South (you)
S. AK1098
H. 73
C. 82

West         North         East         South
1C             Pass           1H             1S
Dbl(1)        2S (2)          Pass         4S
All Pass

(1) Support double showing three card heart support
(2) A terrible bid.  Do not make "sporting raises" when most or all of your strength is in the suit or suits the opponents are bidding.

Opening lead: HA

East discourages in hearts and West shifts to the D10 to your king.   Say you continue with the AK of spades and West follows with two low spades and East follows low and then the jack.   Where do you go from here?


The West hand:     S. Q32     H. AQ4         D. 109         C. KJ976
The East hand:      S. J4         H. 9862         D. 843       C. A1043

Once the defenders do not cash their two club winners, you have been given a reprieve.   However, in order to take advantage of their generosity, you must decide which opponent is more likely to hold the queen of hearts.

If you think West has it, you can take a simple finesse and wind up with an overtrick.   You will be able to discard both of your clubs losers before West can ruff in.  If you think East has it, lead a heart to the king and then run the jack, discarding a club, if East does not cover.
If East covers, ruff, and try to enter dummy with a diamond in order to discard a club on the ten of hearts. What are the clues?

The clues comes from the bidding and the club suit.    If West had both club honors he would have led one, and if West had the ace of clubs without the king, he would have cashed the ace at trick two to find out if partner had the king.  Clearly West has the king of clubs and East has the ace.

So what does West have for his first seat vulnerable opening bid?   The most he can have in spades is the queen, the most he can have in clubs is the KJ for a total of 6 HCP in the blacks.   He has no points in diamonds and needs both the ace and queen of hearts to even have a minimum opening bid.   Lead a heart to the jack.   As the cards lie you make an overtrick.

Additionally, this hand illustrates a defensive principle.   Given the bidding, the lead, and the heart strength in dummy, East's play at trick one should be suit preference, not attitude.   After all, West already knows how East must feel about hearts.  If that agreement is in place, West will shift to a club at trick two and defeat the contract.

#28  You Don't Want To Know

S.  AQ73
H.  QJ108
D.  -
C.  KQ653

South (you)
S.  KJ1095
H.  9732
D.  A10
C.  A10

Contract 6S
Lead: QD

You do not want to know the bidding (they were silent) that eventually landed you in this godforsaken contract.   Of course it was your partner's fault, but at least you didn't get  a heart lead.   Spades are 2-2 (why am I so good to you?)   Plan the play.


Basically you have to bring in dummy's clubs for five tricks so you can pitch three hearts from your hand.    The best play for five club tricks with this combination is to lead low to the ten which is better than playing the AKQ.    This play loses to Jxx in the West hand (If West has Jx, you can't take five tricks anyway).   However, your play gains when East has Jx or Jxxx.

#29 That Extra Chance

Dealer North
Vul. Both

S: 1093
H: A432
D: J85
C: AK7

South  (you)
S: A8765
H: KJ5
D: K103
C: Q3

North              East             South             West
1C                    Pass            1S                  Pass
1NT                 Pass             2C (1)            Pass
2S                   Pass             4S                 All Pass

(1) Checkback

Opening lead: D2 (fourth best).   East wins the D-A and returns the D-9.   What is your plan?


The West hand: S. KJ       H. Q96       D. Q742       C. 10752
The East hand:  S. Q42    H. 1087      D.                C. J964

You are off two trump tricks, you have already lost the D-A, and it looks very much like West has led from Qxxx. Clearly you should rise with the D-K.   Only someone with a strong death wish would play low on the second diamond.  Having won the D-K, cash the S-A (you will see why in a moment) and then play three rounds of clubs discarding your losing diamond.    With the lead in dummy, ruff dummy's last diamond, stripping that suit, and exit a spade.

If West has to win this trick and has no more spades, you will not need to take the heart finesse.   West will either have to lead a heart or give you a ruff and a sluff; either return is instant death.   If the opponents can untangle their spades, cash two spades, and get out safely upon winning your spade exit, you can still fall back on the heart finesse. 

Finesses seldom work in problem hands- in mine they never work!  Just kidding.   And why did you cash the S-A early?    Well, if West was born with the Kx and didn't have the presence of mind to unblock the king he could be thrown in later in the hand.   As it was, West had KJ doubleton and couldn't avoid the endplay no matter what.


Dlr: South 
Vul: E-W  

S. AJ5
H. Q93 
D. 76 
C. K8754 

South (you) 
S. KQ1074 
H. KJ102 
D. Q   
C. A93  

South           West          North          East 
1S                 Pass          2C                2D 
2H                 4D*           4S                Pass 
Pass              Pass  


Opening lead:  D2 

East wins the opening lead with the king and continues with the DA.   Plan the play. 


The West hand:  S. 2             H. A865      D. 9852               C. J1062 
The East hand:   S. 9863       H. 74          D. AKJ1043          C. Q    

Better discard a club at trick two, a sure loser in any case.    You have to guard against 4-1 spades (likely on the bidding).    If you ruff and find spades 4-1, you have to desist playing spades after drawing two rounds and go after hearts.    If the player with four spades has a doubleton heart, clever opponents will organize a heart ruff to defeat you. If you discard a club at trick two, avoiding the long hand force, you will be able to draw four rounds of trump before attacking hearts. 


Jump raises of overcalls are preemptive. 

Consider discarding a certain loser rather than ruffing in the long hand if a bad trump break is likely or if no ruff in a side suit is imminent.



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