Hands are from Adventures in Bridge, November 6, 2018.
South ♠AK5 ♥A6 ♦7532 ♣AQJ8
North: ♠86 ♥K83 ♦AKQ6 ♣K1042
This was the usual: “No trump slams are just arithmetic.” North opens 1NT (15-17) and South bids 6NT.
The lead at our table was the ♥5—unusual. [Standard leads against 6NT are top-of-nothing or top of a sequence—not fourth best or leading away from one or two honors.] The ♥J and the ♦J were more common leads in the Open Game. One person led a top-of-nothing club.
The defenders have to figure out their discards to avoid giving Declarer an overtrick. With the low heart lead, Declarer might duck and kill RHO’s ♥Q with the ♥K. In that scenario, LHO could end up feeling squeezed when eight minor tricks are played off. LHO might feel that he is guarding BOTH hearts and spades, and might give up on hearts.
If Declarer takes the ♥A on Dummy, RHO should signal encouragement. In that case, LHO can trust RHO to guard hearts, and LHO can retain the spade guard, splitting the work. LHO must be sure to discard hearts early so that RHO KNOWS that LHO is ceding heart control to him/her. If E/W do not get their act together, both of them could give up their guards in the same major, and Declarer will get an extra trick in that major.
Our defenders went wrong giving us a top board. The normal +990 for everyone else was only a 40% board.
East: ♠1083 ♥753 ♦AJ92 ♣J82
West: ♠AQ8 ♥AK864 ♦K73 ♣104
South (RHO) opened 1♣ and West overcalled 1♥. North passed. East raised to 2♥. At most tables in the Open room, everyone passed. One pair pushed to 3♥ and one E-W pair got a top board for doubling 4♣.
The lead against 2♥ was the ♣7, to RHO’s ♣Q. RHO continued with the ♣K and ♣A. Side Note: although the tradition is to win with the lowest of equal honors, when you have three or more equal honors, and that will be clarified very shortly, it is best to play them in suit preference order. Thus, South does best to win the ♣A first, then play the ♣K, then play the ♣Q. This will show partner possession of a spade card. Playing clubs from the bottom up should suggest ownership of a diamond card.
Declarer ruffed the third round of clubs with the ♥8, and North overruffed with the ♥9 (hoping to get partner in with a spade for a trump promotion with another club). The spade return went ♠K from RHO to Declarer's ♠A. Declarer picked up the rest of the trump suit with the ♥A and ♥K.
Surprisingly, NONE of the Declarers in the Open Room played this hand for traditional matchpoint greed. After cashing the ♦K, everyone simply finessed the ♦J, and eventually conceded a spade trick. A superior play is to play the second round of diamonds to the ♦9. Two good things could happen: (1) the ♦9 could force the ♦Q from RHO; (2) the ♦9 could WIN! In that case, you return to your ♠Q and take a finesse to the ♦J, and rack up +170.
What if RHO is ducking to lure you to your doom? That would take nerves of steel. You know RHO started with exactly six clubs and two hearts. LHO’s ♠2 makes it likely that RHO has three spades, which leaves only two diamonds. [Plus RHO might have mentioned spades or doubled with four spades along with six clubs.] So, the odds are 4:2 that North has any particular diamond card. South ducking from a doubleton Queen seems unlikely.