Eddie Kantar

Test Your Play

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Edited 3-2-13


Dlr: South 
Vul: Both 

S. A32 
H. Q5 
D. AKQ10  
C. 8765 

South (you) 
S. KQ954 
H. AK7 
D. 752 
C. AQ 

South          West           North           East 
1S                Pass           2D                Pass 
3NT             Pass           6S               All Pass 

Opening lead:  CJ  

Partner might have bid 6NT, but that's water over the dam.    How do you play 6S after winning the opening lead with the CQ? 


The West hand: S. -            H. J8643    D. J943    C. 8765
The East hand:  S. J10876  H. 1092      D. 86       C. K32   

When a contract looks too good  to be true, ask yourself what can possibly go wrong and then try to protect against your worst fears.   In this case the nightmare is East having all five spades (If West has them, you are history).   Accordingly,  lead a low spade to the ace at trick two, NOT a high spade from your hand first.    When the 5-0 spade division comes to light, lead a second spade from dummy.    Assuming East plays an honor you can win, cross to a heart and lead a spade to the nine.    After cashing the high spade you can play winners allowing East to make his spade trick or you can give up a spade and play the hand at notrump.   You might try making this hand if you play a high spade at trick two.   It can be done!   


If you are pretty sure you have 33-35 HCP between the two hands, it might be safer to play in 6NT just in case your trump suit breaks obscenely. 

The safety play with Axx in dummy facing KQ9xx in your hand to guard against a 5-0 division to your right is to start with the ace. 


Dlr: South 
Vul: Both 

S. 7654 
H  9862 
D. Q7   
C. J93 

South  (you)  
S. K32 
H. AK7 
D. A94 
C. AQ105  

South            West            North           East 
2NT (1)          All Pass      

(1) 20-21 

Opening lead:  D3.     You play the queen from dummy and it holds, East contributing the 6.    Plan the play. 


The West hand: S. A108  H. Q104  D. KJ732  C. 86
The East hand:   S. QJ9   H. J53     D. 1086     C. K742 

Your best shot is to try to bring in the clubs for four tricks, needing East to have the king. Just in case East has four clubs and would stubbornly duck the jack in which case you have to win the second club in your hand, the better play off dummy at trick two is the C9.    Assuming East ducks, you can continue with the J underplaying the 10 if East ducks again.    Now with the lead still in dummy you can lead a club to the queen and bag four club tricks as well as your contract. 


With J9x facing AQ10x or Q9x facing AJ10x, start with the nine, not with the honor. 

By starting with the nine you will be able to pick up Kxxx(x) without needing an additional entry to the short hand.  


After a bidding sequence neither you nor your partner are terribly proud of, you land in a contract of 6H instead of 6NT.                                                           

S. 764 
H. A82 
D. AKJ6 
C. AQ7 

South (you) 
S. AK5 
H. KJ743 
D. Q3 
C. K82 

Contract 6H:  Opening lead: SQ   Plan the play 


The West hand:  S. QJ108    H. Q965     D. 85             C. 1054 
The East hand:   S. 932        H. 10         D. 109742     C. J963

This falls into the category of a one-suited problem. Hearts.    The only losers you have are in hearts so the idea is to play hearts as safely as possible for only one loser.  Enter the safety play. With this combination the safety play for four tricks is to start with the KING.   If the nine or ten falls to your right, lead low to the eight.  This play guards against Q9xx Q10xx to your left.    When you lead a second heart if West shows out, rise with the ace and then lead a low heart to the jack.   Even if East has Q109x, East can take no more than one trick. 


When you have losers in only one suit, the best play in that suit is determined by how many tricks you need the in the suit.    At times you will be called up to make a safety play to make sure you hold your losses to a minimum without trying for all the tricks. 

The safety play for four tricks with  KJxxx  facing A8x (or AJxxx facing K8x) is to start with the king and then lead low to the eight if the nine or ten falls to your right.  


Dlr: South 
Vul: Both 

S. 732 
H. 86 
D. 74 
C. AK6532 

South (you) 
S. J104 
H. AQ52 
C. J10

South           West           North           East 
1NT              Pass           3NT               All Pass 

Opening lead:  DJ   East plays the 2.  Plan the play. 

The West hand:  S. K98       H. J94         D. J1098  C. Q87
The East hand:   S. AQ65     H. K1073    D. 632       C. 94 


A little chicanery is called for here.   After winning the first diamond, preferably with the king, lead the TEN of clubs.  Psychologically  it is much easier to cover a jack with a queen then a ten.  If  the ten is ducked all around, you are playing for overtricks.  If West covers the ten, play low (the suit is blocked) and hope West doesn't find the spade shift.    And even if West does lead a spade, East may err by winning the spade and returning a diamond or a heart.    There are so many ways to go wrong in this game and most of them are on defense. 


Dealer West 
Vul: Neither 

S. 2
H. 76 
D. KJ10643

S. Q1083
H. AKJ10
D. Q5 
C. Q76

West        North       East       South 
2S             3D            Pass      3NT
All Pass 

Opening lead:  S7     East plays the jack. Plan the play


Don't tell me you won this trick and crossed to dummy to take the heart finesse. Don't tell me you fell for that trap. The lead has marked West with the AK of spades. Had West the DA as well, West would have opened 1S.  Don't tell me you win the SQ and led the DQ trying to develop the diamonds. Given that East has the diamond ace and that West has six spades headed by the AK9, that is not going to work. However, you can lock up the contract by ducking the first spade. If East returns a spade you still have a spade stopper after West wins the trick.    Whatever West does, you will either make 3NT (cashes a third spade) or 4NT (doesn't cash a third spade). 

If you win the first spade, cross to dummy with a club and take the heart finesse and it loses, you are in serious trouble if West wins and returns a diamond or just doesn't  cash his AK of spades and exits with any other suit.  However if West finds a diamond exit, you are about to go down three tricks on a cold hand!   

The West hand:  S. AK9764  H. Q92      D. 83      C. 93 
The East hand:   S. J5            H. 8543    D. A92   C. 10842 


When a weak two bidder turns up with the AK of his suit, assume his partner has any other missing ace or king and use that info to help you in the play.  


Dealer: North
Vul:  Neither 

S. K863 
H. A4 
D. KJ107 
C. Q52 

S. AQJ95 
H. 10
D. A942
C. J83 

North        East       South       West 
1D             Pass      1S             2H 
2S              3H         4S             All Pass

Opening lead:  HK     Plan the play.   (Spades are 2-2)  


You have two touchy side suits, clubs and diamonds, and the idea is to play them for no more than three losers. Your best bet is to win the HA, ruff a heart and play two rounds of spades stripping their safe exit cards in the majors. Now you can cash the AK of diamonds and exit a diamond. 

Assuming diamonds are 3-2, whoever wins the queen must break clubs limiting your losses to two tricks in that suit or give you a ruff/sluff, both sudden death returns (for them).  

Leading clubs after you strip the hand trying to force a diamond lead is a thought, but not a good one. After the opponents cash three clubs they can exit a heart giving you a ruff and a sluff and you still have to go out searching for the DQ.   

The West hand:  S. 104   H. KQJ93   D. 83     C. A1094 
The East hand:   S. 72     H. 87652   D. Q65   C. K76  


When you have two equally divided side suits, consider stripping the hand (if possible) before playing either one. Then attack the suit that gives you the best chance of losing the minimum number of tricks. This may mean disdaining a finesse in an equally divided suit missing the queen, using the suit instead as your throw in suit.    

As a defender when declarer has stripped a hand and the only "safe" suit to lead is divided 4-4 in the opposing hands, it is usually better to concede a ruff-sluff than to attack the 'safe' suit.  




Dealer:   South 
Vul:  North-South 

S. AKQ7 
H. A82
D. J73
C. A102   or  A109

S. J10962
H. K5
D. AK2
C. K43 

South        West        North       East
1S              Pass        2NT          Pass 
3NT             Pass       5S            Pass 
6S              All Pass 

North was trying to show a balanced with about 18-19 HCP.    South wasn't sure what North was doing but decided to bid on with his controlling cards. 

Opening lead:  HQ    (spades are 2-2)  

A. How  do you play the hand if dummy has the A102 of clubs? 

B. How do you play the hand if dummy has the A109 of clubs?

Solution to A 

Your best shot to hold your minor suits losers to one is to draw trump, strip the hearts, cash the DA, and exit with the king-ace and a club hoping the player who wins the trick has to lead away from the DQ.  

Solution to B

This time your best chance to hold your minor suit losers to one is to strip the hand as before but exit with the AK and a diamond.    Assuming the queen hasn't dropped, you have forced the opponents to lead a club.  Now the idea is to play for split club honors.  If the honors are split you won't lose a club trick when they break the suit. 

The West hand:  S. 43     H. QJ1063    D. 10865    C. J5
The East hand:   S. 85      H. 974           D. Q94      C. Q9876   


When choosing from which of two equally divided side suits to attack in a hand that has been stripped, decide which suit is most advantageous for the opponents to lead first and then toss them in with the other suit.     


Dealer: North
Vul: Both 

S. J10643 
H. 75 
D. KJ3 
C. A73 

S.  AK982 
H.  J62  
D.  A72 
C.  K8 

North   East   South   West 
Pass   Pass   1S          2H 
3S       Pass    4S         All Pass 

Opening lead:  HQ   (Q from AKQ-third hand gives count) 

East plays the H10 at trick one and West continues with the ace and king of hearts, East following to the second heart. Plan the play. 


Careful!  Don't touch that dial. If you ruff high and you get overruffed you are at the mercy of the diamond finesse. (Finesses never work in play quizzes by the way). 

However, if you discard a diamond from dummy, a possible loser, you should prevail easily. Unless West has Qxx of spades, you can win any return,  draw trumps and claim.  

The West hand:  S. 7      H. AKQ984   D. 965         C. Q105 
The East hand:   S. Q5   H. 103            D. Q1084    C. J9762 


The lead of the queen from the AKQ is a reasonable lead convention. Partner can usually read the lead from the bidding and/or if the jack is visible. Third hand gives count.  Another plus for the lead is that if the partnership leads the A from the AK, the lead of the ace denies the queen and pinpoints that card in declarer's hand if third hand doesn't have the queen or it doesn't show up in dummy.  

When dummy is threatened with an overruff, consider discarding a loser from dummy rather than trumping. The discard would have been easier to make if dummy had  Kxx of diamonds rather than the KJx, but the diamond discard is still the correct play.  



Dlr: West
Vul: Both 


S. AQ5 
H. QJ109
D. K42
C. 764

S. KJ10862
H. K 
D. A6
C. Q853                                 

West   North     East   South
Pass   1NT*      Pass  4S
All Pass 


Opening lead:  CA   (Ace from ace-king) 

East plays the discouraging C2 and West shifts to the DQ. Plan the play.   


A little subterfuge is called for here. West surely has  the ace-king of clubs and presumably the queen-jack of diamonds. Given West's oriiginal pass, this places the HA with East. 

Given that East has the HA, it is going to be difficult to avoid three club losers to along with the HA if East can get in..... unless.  Unless you duck the DQ in both hands! West is likely to continue the suit. If so, you will win the ace,  play the jack and a spade to dummy's ace, discard the HK on the DK (applause) and run the HQ through East to take the rest of the tricks. (Whenever East covers, ruff and reenter dummy with a trump to the queen and discard your remaining club losers.)  

This hand was adopted from the book THE HOG IN THE 21ST CENTURY by Phillip and Robert King. 

The West hand:  S. 73  H. 542       D. QJ983  C. AK10
The East hand:   S. 94  H. A8763  D. 1075     C. J92


This diamond combination offers the declarer a chance for a little chicanery if a quick discard is needed in another suit. It is a form of an avoidance play.  

#40  Test Your Play 

by Eddie Kantar 


Dlr: South
Vul: Both  

S. J109 
H. 74
D. QJ1083
C. Q54

S. AK54
H. AK6
D. K6
C. A987                                                                                                  

South   West   North   East 
2NT       Pass   3NT      All Pass

Opening lead:  S2  (4th best) 

You play the nine from dummy and East plays the S7, count.  Plan the play. 


Is the lead in dummy after trick one?  Sorry, you can't make the hand any longer. You no longer have a sure entry to dummy's diamonds assuming they win the second diamond with the ace. 

 A stronger play is to win the opening lead with the king and drive out the DA. Say someone wins the second diamond and shifts to a heart. You win the king and lead a low spade forcing a dummy entry. Now, no matter what they do, you have ten tricks: four diamonds, three spades two hearts and a club.  

The West hand:  S. Q862  H. Q852     D. 762    C. 32
The East hand:   S. 73       H.  J1093   D. A95    C. KJ106  


On defense when third hand cannot top dummy card that is no higher than the queen, third hand gives count (S7). If dummy takes the trick with an ace or king, third hand gives attitude.  

As declarer with an AK stopper at notrump it is more deceptive to win the first trick with the king than the ace. If you take the first lead of the suit with the ace, the opponents should suspect another stopper because you didn't hold up. 

When dummy entries are at a premium you may have to overtake a winner from dummy to conserve a later entry. 



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