X-Clubs 36

The general rule of thumb when playing a No Trump contract is that you play on your longest suit to develop tricks in it. Here, West had two long suits with many potential tricks, but only two stoppers in an outside suit, one of them having been removed on the opening lead, and the other certain to be
removed when the defence win their first trick, which was bound to happen. How then should West as declarer proceed after a spade lead from North?

Board 17 from Tuesday 8/11/22
Dealer North Nil Vul


If declarer plays on diamonds and they break 2-2 declarer will then make 12 tricks. Sounds fair enough. But if diamonds don’t break then declarer will certainly be down one after spades are continued, unless the QJ of clubs fall doubleton. But consider this: declarer can play on clubs without immediately surrendering control. If declarer plays off two top clubs and the queen or jack falls, then declarer can make certain of eleven tricks by continuing with clubs. If both opponents follow with two low clubs, declarer now has to guess whether to continue clubs or go to diamonds. Table presence might be a help here, and some defenders will actually give you a count in clubs. I suggest that in a teams game the play is a no-brainer, play on clubs first. However at match points the temptation of three overtricks rather than two may persuade one to play on diamonds.

But then again, there is also another consideration: If enough pairs have bid to a slam, either in diamonds or No Trumps, then making three overtricks in 3NT won’t be all that overwhelming. And what about the ‘risk:reward’ ratio if you assume that most players will opt for playing on diamonds first?

Lots to think about but I suspect most Wests did the automatic thing and played on diamonds, for down one. Were you one of them, or one of the few who made only two overtricks by playing on clubs first, for a 90% result on the board.