Play Hands Based On Short Suits
From Better Bridge (9/3/14)

1 Dealer NORTH: Nil vulnerable

♠Q 10 9
♥10 7 5 2
♣A K Q J 3
♠8 4 ♠A K J 7 2
♥J 8 6 ♥3
♦J 10 9 7 2 ♦Q 6 5 4
♣8 6 4 ♣9 7 2
♠6 5 3
♥A K Q 9 4
♦A 8 3
♣10 5
1♣1♠2 ♥
pass 4♥all pass

Lead: 8. Partner's suit Top from a doubleton.

Play: East wins the first spade (jack over dummy's 9 or 10) and cashes the ♠K. Noting West's high-then-low lead, East knows that South holds the last spade. East cashes the ♠A and West should discourage a diamond switch. In standard methods the ♦2 discard would be suitable :lowest discard = "I do not want this suit"

As a club switch is futile and West has rejected diamonds, East should continue with a fourth spade. This creates a trump trick for West by promoting the jack. If South ruffs low or discards, West ruffs with the jack. If South ruffs high, West discards and the ♥J becomes high later.

Notes: (1) From West's eight of spades lead -top spot card - East knew at trick 1 that West held a singleton or a doubleton spade.
(2) If East switches to clubs, diamonds or a trump at trick 4, South wins, draws trumps and has 10 tricks.
(3) Souths best chance - not successful - when the fourth spade is led is to ruff high and then cash two top trumps, hoping the ♥J falls singleton or doubleton
(4) If East fails to overcall, West might lead ♦J. Dummy wins, trumps are drawn, South's spades are discarded on dummy's clubs and South makes 13 tricks!
(5) If West held ♠84 ♥864 ♦A10972 ♣864, and South had ♠653 ♥AKQJ9 ♦J83 ♣10 5, a fourth spade would be disastrous. After trumps are drawn, the clubs allow the diamonds to be pitched With those cards, West could signal on the third spade for a diamond switch. In standard methods, the ♦10 asks partner to play a diamond. Without West's signal, East cannot be sure whether to play the fourth spade or try for a diamond trick. Best of all, West should ruff the third spade and cash ♦A. Do not ask partner to do something you can do yourself

2 Dealer EAST: N-S vulnerable

♠4 3
♥Q 7 2
♦8 7 6 5 2
♣10 9 8
♠K Q J 10 7 ♠A 8 6 2
♥9 4 3 ♥10 5
♦J 4 ♦K Q 10 9 3
♣Q J 7 ♣A K
♠9 5
♥A K J 8 6
♣6 5 4 3 2
1♠Pass3♠ pass
4♠Passpass pass

Lead: ♥2. Partner's suit. Bottom card from three to an honour. On a club lead declarer can make 11 tricks easily.

Play: The defence can defeat 4♠ Win ♥K, cash ♦A and lead a low heart to North's queen. North returns a diamond for South to ruff. This is a tough defence but South can work it out. North's lead of the TWO of hearts is from an honour or a singleton. The only honour not visible is the queen. Two hearts + ♦A = 3 tricks, not enough to defeat the contract. The diamond ruff is needed to defeat 4♠. To score the diamond ruff, South must cash ♦A at trick 2 to create the void and then put partner on lead. The only hope for that is in hearts. So, ♥K, ♦A, low heart catering for ♥Q or a singleton heart with North, diamond ruff. One down.

Notes: (1) If South cashes ♥A at trick 2 or 3, the defence fails.
(2) If North's lead were a singleton, the defence would be just as effective: North, diamond ruffed by South.
(3) The defence cannot defeat 4♠ if North leads the queen of hearts. That removes North's vital entry. It is usually an error to lead top of partner's suit from K-x-x, Q-x-x, J-x-x or 10-x-x. Lead top only from a doubleton or from a sequence holding.

3 Dealer SOUTH : E-W vulnerable

♥A K Q 7 5
♦Q J 5
♣Q 9 4 2
♠J 2 ♠A K Q 10 9 7 5 4
♥J 10 9 ♥4 2
♦A K 10 9 3 ♦4
♣8 7 3 ♣K 10
♠8 3
♥8 6 3
♦8 7 6 2
♣A J 6 5
pass pass pass pass

Lead: ♥6. Partner's suit. M.U.D. with 3 rags.

Play: North wins with the ♥Q (defenders win tricks with the cheapest card possible) and cashes ♥K. On the second heart South follows with the 8. With eight hearts gone, North deduces that South has the last heart With a doubleton, South would play 8-then-6. As South played 6-then-8, South has another heart Since a third round of hearts is futile and diamonds cannot provide two more tricks, North should switch to clubs. The correct card is the ♣2, normal fourth highest. East's best hope is to try the ♣K, hoping North has ♣A. South wins and another club means one off.

Notes: (1) A strong pre-empt of 4♥/♠(up to about 15 HCP) is all right after partner has passed or RHO has opened. With chances for slam remote, pre-emption is more attractive.
(2) If South leads the ace of clubs (dreadful), 4♠ makes. (3) If South leads ♥6 but carelessly plays the ♥3 on the second round of hearts, North may believe South began with a doubleton heart and try to cash a third heart. Disaster.
(4) It would not be correct for North to switch at trick 2. South might have led a singleton or a doubleton.
(5) If North does try to cash a third heart, East can score 11 tricks: ruff the third heart high, cash ♠A, then ♦A and a low diamond ruffed spade to the jack, ♦K (discarding a club) and as the ♦Q-J have fallen, the ♦10 allows a second club discard
(6) If South led ♥8, the out-of-fashion top-of-nothing or unsound top-of-partner's-suit, North could not tell whether the 8-then-6 was a doubleton or not.

4 Dealer WEST: Both vulnerable

♠A K Q 9 6
♥J 3 2
♦7 6
♣10 8 2
♠5 2 ♠A K J 7 2
♥A K Q 7 5 ♥10 4
♦5 4 3 2 ♦10 9 8
♣A Q ♣J 9 6 5 4 3
♠J 10 8 7
♥9 8 6
♦A K Q J
♣K 7
pass pass pass

Lead: ♥10. Partner's suit. Top from a doubleton.

Play: West wins the first trick with the ♥Q (cheapest card). West knows that North has ♥J (the 10 lead denied the jack) and that East has a singleton or doubleton heart. With the 9 in dummy, East's 10 could not be from a sequence. West cashes the ♥K and learns that East began with 10-4 doubleton and that North holds the missing heart.

It is tempting to cash the ♥A but a count of tricks will set West on the right path. To defeat 3 ♠, five tricks are needed three tricks from hearts and two from clubs. However, to score two club tricks, the club lead must come from East (or North). To give East the lead for the club switch, West continues with a low heart at trick 3, forcing East to ruff. East leads ♣5, normal fourth highest, one off.

Notes: (1) West should not be fooled if North drops the ♥J on the first or second lead ofhearts. The lead of the 10 coupled with the 9 in dummy marks East with the short hearts. Trust partner, not the opposition.
(2) If West wins ♥A at trick 3 and plays a fourth heart, hoping to promote a trump trick for East, declarer scores 10 tricks (discard a club and ruff in dummy, draw trumps and discard the other clubs on the diamonds).
(3) If West muffs the defence, playing ♥Q, ♥K and ♥A, East can save the day. East should ruff the third heart, even though it is a winner, and lead a club. East can find this play by focussing also on the tricks needed. After three hearts, the other two tricks must come from clubs. Partner figures to hold ♣A for the opening bid (and if North has it, there is nothing to be done). The only chance for two club tricks is if East leads clubs and West has the A-Q. In order to play clubs, East must take the lead now (last chance) by ruffing partner's heart.

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