It is customary in party or club bridge games to cut the cards for the deal at the start of every rubber, or series of rubbers. So you cut and you win. This gives you a choice of seat and color of cards. Now what do you do? It may sound like a frivolous matter, but I get numerous letters asking me for advice on the smart way to proceed.
Some players deliberately choose the cards and seats held by the losers of the last rubber, on the theory that the law of averages is going to even things up in the long run. A greater number opt for the seats and cards of the previous winners, because that is how the cards are running. Frankly, I don't think it makes much difference which you choose. The only advice I offer is this: ask your partner if he would like to make the choice. It is a small but fruitful way to establish good partnership rapport. And rapport alone sometimes means success.
Now let me offer you a better deal—a choice of seats after the cards have been dealt. The question here is whether you would choose to sit South and play the four-heart contract against a club lead, or sit West and defend. It is not an easy decision, and beware the possibility of making the right choice for the wrong reason. I would score you zero for that.
You will be playing the hand pretty well if, as South, your plan is to try to pass a diamond lead to West, keeping East out of the lead so that he cannot play through your king of spades. If you succeed, and assuming that the diamonds are favorably split, you will be able to discard spades on two long diamonds and the defenders will be limited to only one diamond and one spade trick.
Suppose you take the ace of clubs, cash a high trump and lead a diamond from dummy on which East plays the 8. You must judge whether he also holds the 7. If you think not, you must go up with the king of diamonds, draw trumps and hope you can force West to win the next diamond lead. Alas. Whichever you decide, East will be able to gain the lead—if necessary, by overtaking his partner's jack of diamonds on the second lead of the suit—and play the jack of spades through your king. No matter what you do, the defenders will collect three spade tricks in addition to their diamond for down one.
As it happened, the declarer who played this hand did much better. He did not rely on his chances of making West win a diamond trick but instead made the fine play of ducking the first club lead. With West winning the king of clubs, the defenders were helpless. Whatever they did next. South could discard a diamond on dummy's ace of clubs. From there on the play becomes easy. After taking the precaution of leading only two rounds of trumps, declarer can cash the king and ace of diamonds, ending in dummy. Declarer then leads a third round of diamonds, ruffing high, after which he returns to dummy with a trump to discard two spades on dummy's fourth and fifth diamond.
If you chose to play as the declarer against a club lead and made four hearts via the play of ducking the opening king of clubs, you earn full honors. But here is the kicker—and I admit that it is a double cross of those who were shrewd enough to see the winning play. If you were willing to sit South against any club lead—which was the condition I stated—you overlooked something. The option of ducking the first club is denied you if West makes the unlikely lead of a low club! Now, no matter how you twist and turn you will not be able to prevent East from gaining the lead and playing a spade through, giving the defenders four tricks to set the contract.