1. You are declarer with the West hand at Four Spades.
North leads the diamond two. South cashes the A-K and shifts to the four of hearts. How would you play the hand?
2. You are declarer with the West hand at Six Clubs, and North leads the jack of hearts. How would you play the hand?
1. There is much more to the play here than meets the casual eye. Oddly enough, you should play the three of hearts on South’s four! To play the king or queen amounts to giving up on the hand.
Let’s see why. You start by assuming that South has the king of spades, since you cannot make the contract unless he has that card. But once you make this assumption, it follows that South cannot also have the ace of hearts, as he would not have passed originally with the A-K of diamonds, the king of spades – which circumstances compel you to assign him – and the ace of hearts.
Your only real chance, therefore, is that South has the J-10-x or J-10-x-x of hearts, in which case your low heart play will force North’s ace without wasting your king or queen. To play an honour on South’s four would be tantamount to conceding defeat without attempting to avoid it.
2. Win the heart, draw trumps and cash the ace of diamonds. If both opponents follow suit, the slam can be assured by leading another diamond and playing low from dummy! This guards against a 4-1 diamond division and guarantees 12 tricks.
If you play the queen on the second round of diamonds and the suit divides 4-1, you’ll have to fall back on a spade finesse. It would be wrong to subject yourself to that risk when conceding a diamond trick gives you a sure thing. True, this will cost you 20 points more often than not, but that is a very tiny premium to pay for ensuring the slam.