Sometimes a holdup can take a form that is easy to overlook.
For guidance, keep in mind which opponent is “dangerous.”
Holdups come in many forms. I learned about this layout some time ago. It has been written up, but only rarely.
North shows some caution by passing 2♥ and East balances with a takeout double. The auction ends with North bidding 3♥. West leads the ♦2.
North comments that he had choices in the bidding. That’s true. He might have made a game try over 2♥. He might have considered defending. He might even have doubled 3♦, hoping for down one, which would be a terrific result at this vulnerability.
All in all, his choice of bidding 3♥ at the end was okay. He could not, after all, know that you had the ♦Q 10 5.
After checking out the dummy and West’s lead, you can see that there are some potential losers here. There are enough potential losers that down one is possible. It is true that you have nine sure tricks. but getting them will be a challenge.
At trick one you play low from dummy. You expect to lose to the king, but no — East plays the jack. What is your plan?
Here is what did happen. You decide if you approve.
At trick one, South took East’s ♦J with the queen and played the ♥K. When both opponents followed, he led a spade, finessing the jack in dummy. South saw he actually had a play for 11 tricks if West had the ♠Q, and he felt pretty good about his chances of taking 10 tricks. Someone should have told declarer that he only needed nine.
East won the ♠Q, crushing South’s chances for 11 tricks, and returned the ♦8. South played the 10, not really expecting it to win, and it did not. West played the king, forcing the ace. South played another trump, finding they were 2–2.
Declarer played a spade to dummy’s king and East’s ace. East led the ♦6 to West’s 9. South suddenly realized he was in trouble. When West led the ♣5, the defense got two club winners and South was down one.
Sad, because dummy had two spade winners and it was too late to use them. Do you see a better line than the one declarer took? Hint: Consider the subject of this article. Here are all four hands.
The bidding was normal enough and the lead, although unsuccessful, was a normal choice. At trick one. South played low and East played the jack, which South took.
Here is a simple question: Where is the ♦K?
I am willing to bet that West has it. What East would play the jack when he had the king? If you think about the bidding, you could imagine that West might have five or six points. The ♦K is very possibly in the West hand.
What this means is that if South takes the first diamond trick, the defenders may find a way to West’s hand so West can lead a club.
The solution? Play low on the first trick. Let East have his ♦J. Essentially, you are letting East have the first diamond trick instead of letting West have a later diamond trick. By playing in this fashion, South gets to play on spades, setting up some tricks there, and then use the spades before the defenders take their tricks. Interestingly, if South plays as suggested, East must cash his ♣A when he gets in with the second spade. Otherwise, South gets rid of his two club losers.