ACES ON BRIDGE
Today’s deal saw you show a strong, balanced hand, after which North impulsively leapt to slam, deciding he would be facing a very strong hand relatively short in hearts.
After the lead of the spade nine, where are your 12 winners? If trumps are 2-1, you have 11 top tricks, in the form of eight trump tricks (draw two rounds and take the remaining six trumps separately) and three redsuit winners. Normally, in these positions, you can generate an extra trick by discarding on the opening lead and building a trick for the spade king — not this time, as you will see. Whatever you pitch from dummy, there is no sure route to 12 tricks.
Curiously, though, as long as trumps behave, you do not even need East to have the seven spades he promised to be able to guarantee your contract. Ruff the spade, come to hand with a trump and ruff a second spade, then come back to hand in trumps again, and ruff a third spade.
Now you lead a heart from dummy, intending to finesse the eight if East plays low, or to cover the nine or 10 with the jack.
West will be able to win cheaply, but can only lead into one of the red tenaces. That extra trick allows you to make the remainder in the form of top tricks, plus taking your trumps separately.
If the opponents had not bid, your first heart play would be low to the jack. You would ruff the spade return, cash hearts from the top and fall back on the diamond finesse, if necessary.
ANSWER: Despite the fact that you have longer diamonds than hearts, I would respond in hearts initially. My plan would be to compete in diamonds if the opponents bid on in a black suit. If you respond in diamonds, you may find yourself obligated to bid hearts on your next turn. Incidentally, by bidding a major before a minor, you suggest this sort of canape shape.
“I could be mighty foolish, and fancy myself mighty witty; Reason still keeps its throne, but it nods a little, that’s all.” — George Farquhar