This months deal occurred at the FLBC some years back. Those who guessed how to play the heart suit won 11 tricks; those who didnt won only 10 tricks. The difference, a simple overtrick, is quite significant at matchpoint scoring. Would you guess it right?
Norths jump to 3 was a limit raise showing 10-12 points and invitational to game. South held minimum high-card strength, but the possession of a six-card suit was ample incentive to bid game.
Assume West leads the Q, and the defenders cash two club tricks then shift to a diamond. The problem is which top heart to cash first; either play could be right depending on which opponent, if any, held Q-x-x.
There are many reasonings one might use: (1) Cash the king because it is in the shorter hand; (2) cash the ace since the queen lies over the jack; (3) lead the jack and, if West does not cover, play the king; (4) cash the ace since West has shown more high cards.
None of these are valid. The only slight indication is that West had an opportunity to bid at a low level; with a heart void at favorable vulnerability, he might have done so. Therefore, cash the A in case East is void.
The astute reader may notice another advantage in cashing the A first. It guarantees the contract. If East instead held Q-x-x, declarer would cash the K and all his diamond winners, then exit with a heart. East would be endplayed!
© 1997 Richard Pavlicek