Sometimes one can find the right line on a hand simply by noting which things are immediately bad and avoiding them rather than completing some deep analysis. This is one such hand today. The auction quickly arrived in that common matchpoint contract of 3NT and West led a fourthhighest the six of spades. As only 14 highcard points were in the defensive hands, declarer saw that it was all but certain that West held all three of the missing aces.
Declarer was about to play low from dummy when he saw that if he did so, West would grab the first round of diamonds to play the ace-jack of spades and then declarer would have only eight tricks before he had to lead hearts. West would take the ace of hearts immediately and cash two winners for a one trick set. So, avoiding the first error, declarer called for dummy’s king of spades. He then crossed to hand with the ace of clubs to lead a low diamond towards dummy.
As the cards lay, if West rose with the ace and played on spades declarer would be safe as he would still have a spade stopper when the time came to develop a trick in hearts. This avoided the second error which would be to let West capture a diamond honour with the ace. Leading small cards towards high cards was all that was necessary. In practice, West played a low diamond on the first round and dummy’s jack won the trick. Dummy’s king of hearts came next. West took this with his ace and returned a heart to declarer’s queen. Next, declarer cashed the queen of clubs and then led a second low diamond to dummy’s king. The 4-1 diamond break was a disappointment but not a real problem. Declarer just cashed the king of clubs and the jack of hearts for his seventh and eighth tricks and saw West show out in both suits. All that remained was to exit with a low diamond from hand. West took the ten and ace of diamonds but then had to give declarer his ninth trick by leading away from his ace of spades.