Rising to the occasion
Assume you’re in three notrump and West leads the jack of hearts. How would you play the hand?
It may be tempting to finesse the queen of hearts, but this is demonstrably the wrong play — and in the actual deal would prove fatal. Instead, you should go up with the ace, reasoning that if West has the king of hearts and has led the jack from a suit headed by the K-J-10, dummy’s queen will serve as a second stopper later on. And if East has the king, the queen is surely the wrong play.
After rising with the ace, you should then attack clubs, forcing out the ace. In the actual deal, West has the ace, but he cannot harm you, whatever he returns. If he shifts to a spade, you win and take the diamond finesse. East has the king, but, whatever he leads next, you have nine tricks in the till.
If West returns a heart after taking the ace of clubs, you are on perfectly safe ground. If he leads the ten of hearts, you cover it with the queen to establish a second heart trick with your nine; if he leads a lower heart instead of the ten, you follow low from dummy to accomplish the same result.
For practical purposes, the contract can be guaranteed by going up with the ace of hearts at trick one. You assume from the opening lead that West has the ten of hearts, and that he also is the one with the heart length. If these suppositions are correct, nothing can stop you from making three notrump.
The deal demonstrates once again that you don’t take a finesse merely because it’s there. There often are other factors to consider.
(c) 2017 King Features Synd., Inc.