WEST NORTH EAST SOUTH (Dlr W, Vul nil)
1H 1NT - 3NT
4D - 4H 5C
West leads the queen of hearts against your five club contract. How do you plan the play?
It is just as well that you did not press on with four no trumps, for your partner's poor choice of call on the first round had placed the declaration in the wrong hand. You are also lucky to have avoided playing in four spades since on the bidding West must be very short in the black suits. In that case the straight-forward method of play—discarding a diamond on the high heart and trying to limit your spade losers to one—is not likely to succeed.
You have chances, of course, if West has the king of spades singleton or doubleton. You could play trumps until West shows out, discard a spade on a high heart and ruff the small heart and then lead a spade towards dummy, ducking if West plays the king. No return by West could now hurt you.
But by far the best line of play is to allow West to hold the first trick. This succeeds whenever the spades break 3-2, and also when they are 4-1 if West does not switch to trumps (and he may well have no trump to lead). On a spade switch you win with the ace, discard your losing spades on the top hearts, and ruff a spade high. Now dummy has enough trump entries for you to establish the fifth spade for a diamond discard.
This challenge hand is taken from page 19 of Hugh Kelsey Advanced Play at Bridge (Faber, 1968) - one of the many great books in our borrowing library.