Misfit deals are notorious for causing trouble, and this deal was no exception when it occurred in a recent IMP practice match. With 33 combined HCP, reaching a slam was inevitable; but the lack of an eight-card trump fit made the journey uneasy. Souths final bid of 6 NT was a sensible guess at the best contract.
Declarer won the spade lead and immediately led a heart to unblock the suit. After a little thought, he next led a low club from dummy and East grabbed the jack. Everything would be fine if East routinely returned a spade, but East cleverly shifted to a diamond. Now declarer could not untangle his tricks (the club suit was blocked) and the contract had to fail.
Declarer was unlucky, but he should have done his little thought a trick earlier. There is a foolproof play to succeed against any lie of the cards: Lead the 10 at trick two and let it ride. The need to unblock the hearts immediately is an illusion because the 9 will provide an additional entry if the club finesse loses.
When East wins the J there is no winning defense. If East returns a spade, South wins; heart to the king; club to the nine; cash Souths winners, then a diamond and dummy is good. If East instead returns a diamond, North wins; club to the nine; heart to the king; cash Norths winners, then a spade and South is high.
Curiously, an original heart or diamond lead would defeat the slam no matter how declarer played.
© 2000 Richard Pavlicek