ANY contract that requires taking ruffs before drawing trumps should be treated with extra care.
West reached 4H after an auction that featured a negative double (showing four spades), an unassuming cuebid (showing a strong raise), and a cuebid of an implied suit (showing extras and suggesting no-trumps as a possible contract). North led the two of diamonds. How would you plan the play?
You expect to make three spades, four hearts, the ace of diamonds and a club by dislodging the ace.
The tenth trick might come from establishing a long diamond if the suit broke 4-3, but South’s opening bid, and North’s lead of the two, a clear singleton, tells you that will not work. The alternative tenth trick should come from a club ruff in dummy. Declarer at the table won the ace of diamonds and played the queen of clubs, taken by South’s ace. South now played king of diamonds, on which North discarded a spade, and the queen of diamonds, which West had to ruff high to avoid losing a second trump. North seized the opportunity to discard a second spade. Declarer cashed the king of clubs and ruffed a club, then led a heart.
North ducked his ace, but won the second heart to play a fourth round of clubs. Dummy had no more trumps, so declarer had to ruff, reducing himself to just one trump when North had two.
The 4-1 break was unlucky, but it could be circumvented if declarer cashes three spades while dummy still has a trump to guard against the club force. After the early play he could not do so, as North had discarded two spades and would ruff the third round. The key to success is to cash the spades at tricks two, three and four, before North has the chance to discard. When South cashes his diamonds North must throw clubs, and in the ending he has only hearts to play.