Plan C

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 12/01/2019

This "Real" Deal is a slight variation on a classic teaching theme. You've opened the South cards 2NT and arrive in 6NT with the J lead:

 Q84 K876 AKJ2 32 AK5 A54 Q93 AKJ5

How should you play?

In notrump, you start by counting winners, and likely you see the same 11 that I am thinking of.

And the twelfth? Either the hearts or the clubs are possibilities. Which suit do you work on first?

In these situations where one suit offers a finesse, but the other requires a 3-3 break, you want to combine your chances to try both. If you were to take the club finesse first and it lost, you'd have no good second chance. If the club finesse is on, it will always be on--there is no rush to take it.

So, play hearts first but how? It would defeat the "combing-chances" purpose if you play ace-king and another. Now if they are 4-2 you are down and never got to try the club finesse. The remedy is simple; concede a heart at trick two. Now, you have all your ducks in a row, You will win any return and benefit from either 3-3 hearts or (if they prove to be 4-2 or 5-1) a winning club finesse. Here is the full deal:

 Q84 K876 AKJ2 32 J10976 Q2 8764 Q4 32 J1093 105 109876 AK5 A54 Q93 AKJ5

Has your author (or editor) made a mistake here? Hearts don't behave. The club finesse is wrong. This doesn't look like a good layout for this lesson.

Or does it?

Actually, there is a "Plan C." 6NT should make even with the 4-2 hearts and the losing club finesse. Why? Declarer wins the opening spade lead and ducks a heart. He wins the spade return and tries the hearts, getting the bad news. Before taking the 50-50 club finesse, he cashes all his other winners ending in dummy. Dummy's last two cards are the losing heart and a small club. Declarer leads a club, East follows and...   Don't finesse!  No, the odds against doubleton-queen offside are poor, but here it is a sure thing! East's 13th card must be the good heart (he had to hold onto it). So, he doesn't have the Q. Don't finesse for a card that East can't hold! The Q falls (if you were counting the clubs, you knew it would--but it wasn't even necessary to have a count). This is called a show-up squeeze, but all you had to do was be aware of East's 13th card and you would fall into your twelfth trick.