Declarer was fooled by a cunning defensive play on this deal from a recent IMP team game. Would you have been the wiser?
The bidding was exemplary. Norths 2 cue-bid served a dual purpose: (1) To allow room to explore for the best game, and (2) to give South a chance to declare notrump from the right side (e.g., with Q-x-x).
Declarer won the opening lead with the J and crossed to dummy in clubs to lead the J. All would have been fine (10 easy tricks) if West took the queen, but the jack won. Flushed with success, declarer led another heart to the 10, only to discover he was flushed somewhere else as West won the queen.
Declarer now lacked entries to establish and enjoy another heart trick, so he directed his attention to clubs. Alas, too late. West shifted accurately to the J, then the defense could establish the setting trick in diamonds before the long club could be developed.
The heart of the matter was the Q. If East had it, declarer would always succeed, so there was no hurry to lead a second heart. Instead, declarer should have ducked a club. On winning the spade or diamond return in dummy, the top club is cashed to reveal the 4-3 break; then a club is conceded to ensure the contract. If clubs did not split, a second heart would be led.
It would be equally good, arguably better, for declarer to lead a low heart from hand at trick two. If the trick is won by either opponent, there is no problem; and if the J wins, declarer can switch to clubs as above.
© 2004 Richard Pavlicek