Many contracts are lost because declarer plays too quickly on the opening lead. As a bridge teacher, I continually stress the importance of planning the play not midway through the hand when it is too late, but as soon as the dummy appears. Develop a plan of some kind before playing to the first trick. Todays deal illustrates the danger of playing impulsively.
Against the routine four-spade contract, West led the heart jack and dummys queen was captured by the ace. The appearance of three small diamonds in dummy inspired East to return that suit and he selected the nine, which was covered by the 10 and queen. The lead of a high card suggests weakness in that suit, so West alertly returned a club. Declarer now paused to consider his alternatives, but it was too late. There was no way home from this point, and in fact declarer went down two when he tried the club finesse and another diamond was returned.
The defense was excellent but could have been foreseen if declarer had done his planning at trick one. Chances would be much brighter without an early diamond lead from East, and this could be prevented by ducking the opening lead to allow West to win the heart jack. (If East overtakes with the ace, he will give declarer his contract by setting up two heart winners.) Declarer is now in the drivers seat, and the contract is virtually assured with proper technique. Follow the play:
West does best to shift to a club, taken by the ace; then the heart king is led to ruff out the ace. A spade is led to dummys jack and the heart queen is cashed to discard a club. Declarer continues with a club ruff; spade to the nine; club ruff; and a spade to the ace. This leaves dummy on lead with one trump and three diamonds remaining in each hand. A diamond is led to the ten (or the king if East plays the jack) and West is endplayed when he wins the trick. Any return gives declarer his contract.
© 1986 Richard Pavlicek