Dealer: North. North-South vulnerable
West led the queen of hearts.
Look over the North/South hands and determine how many different lines of play offer a chance at ten tricks in spades. There are nine on top — six trumps, a club and two diamonds. From clubs on up there are these possibilities:
— Finesse for the king of clubs, or play the ace and a low one from the North hand. The latter caters to singleton or doubleton king with East.
— Finesse for the queen of diamonds, or play the king and ace hoping to drop a doubleton queen offside.
— Lead a low heart to the king, or duck two rounds of hearts and ruff a third, winning in the first case when West holds the ace and in the second when East holds the ace with two or less guards.
How many of these lines work? The answer is none, of course. Otherwise, wherein lies the problem?
Declarer recognized several of these alternatives but overlooked one line — the one that works. His difficulties might have been resolved or at least shifted to North had the partnership been playing transfer bids. Then South would call two hearts over one notrump, North would accept the relay by bidding two spades and South would raise to four. This would place the lead burden on East and only the singleton trump lead would avoid giving declarer a tenth trick.
South correctly ducked the opening queen of hearts lead and continuation, ruffing the third. One chance gone. West wasn’t underleading the ace of hearts but East wasn’t letting it go early either. Trumps were drawn in three rounds. South now played the king and a second diamond, finessing the jack. East took his queen and led back the ace of hearts.
A second hope had evaporated. Declarer ruffed and, still looking for a tenth trick, finessed the queen of clubs. When this too failed the contract was set one trick. South’s line was odds-on, if unsuccessful. It succeeds whenever either finesse works — a 75 per cent chance.
The winning line which was missed gives declarer a free finesse. After ruffing third heart, trumps are drawn ending in dummy and the king of hearts is played. East covers with the ace but declarer does not ruff. He discards a low club instead.
East must now lead from either diamond or club honor. In either case South loses no more tricks, permitting the return to ride up to the North hand.
Why take a finesse when you can force an opponent to do it for you and guarantee success at the same time?