This hand is the kind with which club players struggle. The auction was simple, even though it didn’t stop in 3NT, which happens to be the safest game. It seems normal to play 4S in the 5-3 fit. West leads the HQ, East plays HK and you might cover the EW hands and try to plan the play.
The preemptive overcall has increased the likelihood of bad breaks, so hoping for trumps to split 3-2 and diamonds to be 3-3 is going to lead to disappointment. The question is, which one do you want to handle if you can only handle one? Considering the trump suit, a 4-1 split is 28 per cent (and 5-0 is another 4 per cent). Instead, the diamonds will be 3-3 only 36 per cent of the time and 4-2 about 48 per cent of the time. It is clear to handle the more likely 48 per cent break rather than the 28 per cent break. Thus, the plan must take care of the diamond break first. This requires winning the heart lead and playing a diamond to the ace and then ruffing one. Both opponents will follow 84 per cent of the time and now it is just a matter of drawing trumps.
Clearly, if there were a late entry to dummy, declarer would draw four rounds of trumps to cater for the bad split, but there is no late entry today! The best play is to hope for the 3-2 split, but that hope is dashed on the second round of trumps. Declarer must now stop playing trumps and run the long diamond suit. When West ruffs in (and it should at the first opportunity), there is no good exit card. A trump will be won in dummy and the diamonds can then be run. A club return can be won by the king and a third trump towards dummy draws West’s last trump and declarer can enjoy the long diamonds. There are a couple of things to note. The contract is, perhaps, a little lucky that hearts are 7-1 rather than 6-2, but the correct line also takes care of the simple cases when trumps split evenly. Don’t think of the 4-2 diamond split as a bad split, as it is the most common split – and do always try to cater for the 3-3 and 4-2 splits when missing six cards in a suit.