Planning the Play at the Outset
Today’s hand deals with planning at the outset. Here’s your hand, sitting West:
West North East South
Opening lead: Ace of Spades
The dummy comes down and here are your two hands:
Before you play you must analyze your cards. How are you going to make this hand? It looks as if you must lose four tricks, one Spade, one Diamond, and one Club. And since South sat for the double, she probably has the King of trump. There’s no way to finesse it, so you have to lose that, too. How can you make it?
The answer is that you must play North for the King of Diamonds, and you must set it up before drawing trump. Why? Two reasons. You have to lose a Club and you need to keep the Ace before you set up a way to get rid of your three of clubs. The second reason is that if you lead to the Ace of Hearts immediately, you have no entry to the board, which is where you are hoping to get a trick if you can set up the Queen of Diamonds.
So you trump the second spade in your hand and lead immediately to your Queen of diamonds on the board. If South has the King, which is unlikely since North doubled, showing the good hand, you are toast. But if North goes up and takes the King, no matter what North leads back, you can make the hand. If he leads a Club, you take the Ace, take the Ace of Diamonds in your hand. Lead to the Ace of Hearts. Play the Queen of Diamonds and sluff your three of Clubs. You lose the King of Hearts, but you only lost three tricks, making four, doubled.
Here’s the four hand layout:
I’ll close with a bidding commentary. When a player opens 4 hearts, a double by an opponent is for takeout. If a player opens 4 Spades, a double is penalty. If an opponent wants to make a takeout bid over a 4 Spade opener, he bids 4 NT. That asks partner to bid her longest suit. Here, after the hand was played, South asked me if she was correct to sit for the double and I explained her partner was asking her to bid. What should she have bid? Although a double often asks for the longest suit, it also generally implies four cards in the unbid major, so I would bid 4 Spades with her hand, even though she has 5 Clubs. If Partner doesn’t have 4 spades, she will correct to her long suit. Here, NS is cold for 4 Spades. Actually they can make an overtrick, losing only the two minor suit Aces if they play the Diamonds correctly.