Can you make 12 tricks?

Most people will be in 4♠ after South opens 1NT and North transfers to spades and bids game. It should be easy to make 11 tricks, but playing pairs you will score well if you can find the way to make 12 tricks (on a heart or spade lead).

Play this challenge hand, before you scroll down to read the solution! 


CHALLENGE HAND SOLUTION

It’s possible to make twelve tricks on a heart, or even a spade, lead. Win the ♥︎A, draw one round of trumps with the ♠A, cross to the ♥K, ruff the ♥5 high, cross to the ♠K (this draws the last trumps, which were 2-2), and ruff the ♥︎6. There are now no hearts left. 
Now for the hard part - play your singleton diamond and finesse the ♦︎J or ♦︎10 if East plays low. When West wins the ♦︎K, they will have to return either a diamond or a club, giving you another winner to go with the two minor suit aces. You’ve just end played West!
It may seem unusual to finesse with a singleton in a trump contract, but if you play the hand out, you’ll see that the trick you gave away (♦︎J or ♦︎10) guarantees you a twelfth trick. If you took the club finesse, you will make only eleven tricks, as the ♣︎K is offside. 
 
The steps to setting up an end play are well explained in Audrey Grant’s book Improve Your Declarer Play: Simplify the End Play.

They are:

  • Count your winners and losers – on this hand, eleven winners and two losers
  • Recognise a suit that you don’t want to play yourself - on this hand, the club suit
  • Identify an “exit” card – on this hand, a diamond
  • Eliminate the opponents’ options – on this hand, ruff the low hearts
  • Now end play the opponent by throwing them in with the exit card.

A starter book for learning card play technique is my book, Play Bridge 2: A Workbook for Help with Play. It’s now available in my starter pack, or by itself.