East opened a weak 2D, South overcalled 2H and West had a go at NT. On a heart lead this contract is quite straightforward – declarer banks on a successful club finesse. He simply plays a diamond to dummy’s queen, creating an entry before his second heart stopper is dislodged. But North led the ten of spades, a so-called strong ten which promised the nine and a higher honour. How should declarer play now?
If North has led from ace-queen of spades you can find an entry to dummy by playing the jack at trick one and finessing in clubs. But is that likely? He must have two or three cards in partner’s suit, and with no outside entry it would be dangerous to lead a spade in case partner had a singleton. Would he not lead partner’s suit, expecting that South would find a spade switch if that was the only chance to defeat the contract? This lead is consistent with a weaker suit and an outside entry, North hoping that partner has an honour in his suit to help establish it. Can you make the contract if South has a spade honour?
You may as well play low from dummy, and you see that you have done the right thing when South plays the ace and returns the seven. You might win the king and lead a diamond, hoping that South has the ace and only two spades, but there is a far better play. Drop the king of spades under the ace. Now the defenders cannot clear spades without giving dummy an entry to play clubs. And if they abandon spades you can revert to creating an entry in diamonds.
Mark Horton reported the deal from the final of the World Championships, where neither declarer found the winning play.