Q J 7 4 3 2
Q J 9
A 9 8 7
K 10 9 7 4
A K 10 9
10 4 3 2
A 5 2
J 10 6 5 2
A K 8 6
Q J 6
Today we have a play problem. How do you make 2NT as South against a club lead?
Answer below, but first some bidding, which is one way to put it. Our hero opens a normal 1D, and South makes a normal 1S overcall. West, with a fine defensive hand, makes a nice pass to await developments. North rewards him with an ill-advised 2H call. Conceivably South holds something like AQxxx Kx A10xx xx and you have a heart game, but with 9 lousy points, a spade tolerance, and a bad suit, passing is more likely to keep you out of trouble.
Gee manages to restrain himself and pass, and South, not unreasonably, offers up 2NT, doubled by West, obviously for penalty. The maestro shrewdly pulls to 3C, which offers several advantages. It keeps his partner off lead against 2NT, right-sides the hand, and helps forge the trust that is indispensable to a successful partnership.
3C buys the hand, and South leads his stiff heart 6, covered by the jack and won in hand with the ace. If South holds four trump and a stiff heart, you’re always down on correct defense (I think — my readers are welcome to correct me, as always), but the hand is pretty cold as long as the trump splits. Two rounds of trump, ending up on the board, followed by the semi-marked heart finesse. South can ruff in and cash his two diamonds, but now declarer’s third trump provides an entry to the good hearts, and the defense gets a trump, a spade, and two diamonds.
The maestro begins as recommended, with the ace and king of trump. He now plays a spade, and lo! the practice finesse holds, despite the bidding. North rises and leads the diamond queen, overtaken by South, who cashes the master trump and exits with a spade, which Gee wins on board with the queen. We now have:
Q 7 4 3 2
K 10 9
10 4 3
J 10 6
A 8 6
Diamond from hand, right? If South wins and returns a spade, no need for the heart finesse. South wins and returns a diamond, ruff, heart finesse, nine tricks. North wins, returns a heart, same nine tricks. Or you could simplify matters by cashing the heart king, playing South to have led the heart 6 from J6. Again, no luck. South shows out, and Gee loses a diamond and a spade at the end for down 1.
2NTX might have been interesting. On a club lead the defense appears to collect four clubs, two diamonds and the spade ace for 300. On a double-dummy heart lead there seem to be even eight tricks for the defense: two clubs, four hearts and two spades. However, my powers of analysis being what they are, I am fortunate to have Gee to set me, and the spectators, straight:
G: further more he doubled a 2NT bid that was making and I took it out… he screamed at me for it (The “scream” was as follows: “how could u over 2nt to 3cl, if i want to bid 3cl i bid myself, it’s only unbid suit, and then in 3cl u cashed top heart instead of finessing it” —Ed.)
Spec #1: 2n was making?
G: sure it was
Spec #2: sure
G: and the 3C making 3 was the only viable contract for us (Um, making 3? —Ed.)
G: making 4
Spec #1: looks to me like you get 4 clubs, AK of hearts and ace of spades on defense
Spec #3: 2NT never makes
G: 2NT makes
Spec #1: 3 rounds of clubs and how can you see they make 2NT i still am missing it
G: it makes 1C, 4D, 1S and 2H tricks
So simple. Once it’s explained to you.