Todays deal is one of my favorite lesson examples. It illustrates the proper method of planning the play, and brings out an important aspect of trump control that is often overlooked.
North should open one diamond in a five-card-major system, and it is Souths duty to mention his four-card major no matter how weak else, a four-four trump fit might be lost. Norths hand revalues to 17 points (three for the singleton), so he gives a jump raise to invite game. South should accept, reluctantly perhaps, with his nine-point hand.
After the club lead from West, declarer should take a moment to plan the play. I continually emphasize the practice of counting winners, as I am convinced that this is more accurate than counting losers. Winners take tricks; losers do not. First, declarer counts three trump winners, i.e., the tricks declarer will win on power (not counting ruffs) assuming a normal, three-two break. Add to that four diamond winners and one club winner to bring the total to eight. Two more tricks in the form of club ruffs will see declarer home, but timing is the essence.
Many players would take their club ruffs prematurely, weakening the dummys trumps. Then, when it comes time to run the diamonds, West will ruff the third round and dummys last diamond will go to sleep. Zzzzz. Okay, wake up.
Another popular attempt is to cash the top trumps at once and then play diamonds. This will work if West is lured to ruff with his master trump, but a smart defender will discard. Later West can gain the lead in hearts to cash the spade queen, which leaves declarer a trick short. Do you see the light?
Declarer must lead one heart early. Opponents can take a second heart if they want; but whatever the defense, declarer will next cash his top trumps, run diamonds (throwing his last heart if still held) and crossruff. West can ruff when he pleases
© 1988 Richard Pavlicek