There’s no getting around the fact that good declarer play requires one’s closest attention. In general, this means formulating a preliminary plan of play at the outset and following it unless something unexpected develops. To start the play before any plan is formulated will often lead to defeat, as was the case in this deal where South failed to make three notrump.
He got a club lead and won East’s seven with the eight. Declarer could count nine winners — a spade, four hearts, a diamond and three clubs — but the problem was that the four heart tricks were easier to count than to take.
If he cashed the K- J, he would be cut off from dummy’s A- Q, while if he cashed the king and overtook the jack, he would score only three heart tricks.
Faced with this dilemma, South cashed the king, overtook the jack with the queen, played the ace and then tried a spade finesse, losing the queen to West’s king. West returned the ten of spades, and South had to go down one whatever he did.
Had declarer spent a bit more time devising a plan at the very beginning, he might have found an easy solution to his problem.
All he had to do was to win the opening club lead with the king rather than the eight, cash the K-J of hearts and ace of clubs, then lead a club toward dummy’s J-9. This would have assured him of an entry to dummy and nine easy tricks.