This hand shows an all too common error made by declarers. In this case, West carefully made declarer pay for the lapse. North opened a 1D since the hand was not in the range of a 1NT opener and had a simple raise of partner’s 1H response. South had plenty of values for the jump to game. West led the 6S and declarer paused to consider the play. If the heart honours are split, two finesses will yield three winners to go with one spades, three diamonds, two clubs and two club ruffs. So declarer won the ace of spades and played king, ace and another club. West discarded a spade and dummy ruffed. Now declarer led the 9H and ran it round to West’s queen and West returned another heart. Now, when declarer beat the king with the ace, there was an unanticipated problem. When the fourth club was led, West ruffed it and exited quietly with a diamond. Even though the diamonds split 3- 3, declarer could only make 11 tricks for a poor matchpoint score.
Certainly, West had done well not ruffing the third club since it would get over- ruffed and trumps would fall easily. The problem lay in declarer’s play of the trump suit. If declarer had led a small heart from table and followed the same line of play then the 9H would still be available to over- ruff the fourth club if West ruffed. This simple change would let declarer make 12 tricks for a good score.
More often the matter of leading small cards towards large ones is to take advantage of the placement of a defensive winner. A typical example is: In this case, if South leads twice towards dummy, the defenders only make one trick. If a careless declarer leads small towards the king and, after it wins, plays the queen, the defenders have two tricks. One of the basic rules of card play is that one leads small cards towards big cards as often as possible.