[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[8 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
Contract: 4 [Spade]. West leads the heart jack and East drops the queen under dummy's king. What is your best line of play?
1 Ruff, cash the heart king and lead a second heart. If East follows, finesse for the queen; if East shows out, take the ace and play spades—10. Ruff, cash the heart king, lead another heart and, if East follows, take the ace and play spades—4.
With nine trumps it is mathematically correct to try to drop the queen. However, a safety finesse on this deal ensures that East cannot win a trump trick and lead through your king of clubs. (This could be fatal if East had fewer than three spades and West held the ace of clubs. East could ruff a spade and lead a club in time to collect at least two club tricks.) Even if the heart finesse fails and West wins with the queen, your king of clubs is safe; you will lose at most three tricks—unless West holds all four trumps. Give yourself a two-point bonus if you elected to ruff West's second diamond lead with the jack or 10; if East holds all four trumps, the lead will otherwise be stuck in dummy after three rounds of hearts and you will be unable to draw East's queen. Take no credit at all if you went up with the heart ace and ruffed a diamond before playing spades; this would endanger your contract should West hold three hearts and fewer than three spades. Score a one-point demerit if you let the second diamond lead ride around to your queen-jack and thereby increased the danger of a club lead through your king.
2 Cash one top heart, then go to dummy and finesse—10. Take an immediate trump finesse—6. Cash two top hearts—2.
You have nothing to lose by guarding against the chance that West holds the singleton queen before you take the heart finesse. Cashing two top hearts without finessing is against the odds, but it earns a sop since it wins against a doubleton queen in the West hand, as will happen every now and then.
3 Take the diamond ace, cash the ace and king of spades, then run hearts—10. Win the diamond ace, then take the spade finesse—5. Take the diamond finesse; if it loses, take the spade finesse later—2.
You can afford to lose one spade and two clubs. To avoid losing a diamond trick as well, your best plan is to refuse both the diamond and the spade finesse. Even if the queen of spades does not drop, the chances are you will be able to discard your diamond loser on a good heart before a defender can ruff and cash a diamond trick. Taking only one finesse (in spades) is obviously better than risking two. The danger in taking either finesse is that if you lose the lead too soon, a club shift may cost you a third-round club ruff.