WEST opens with a 15-17 point 1NT. You protect with 2H in the South seat and there is no further bidding. How will you play the contract when West leads the ace, king and queen of spades? You ruff the third spade and draw trumps in three rounds, noting the fall of the jack from West. Everything depends on a successful guess in the diamond suit. What is the best bet, do you think? Should you lead to the king or to the jack? The correct answer is: ‘I have no idea... yet!’ Before making the key play in diamonds you need to find out which defender holds the ace of clubs. When you lead the club king from your hand West wins with the ace. Have you been keeping track of his points? He has shown up with 14 points outside the diamond suit. He cannot therefore hold the ace of diamonds, which would give him a total of 18 points — too much for a strong 1NT. You win West’s club exit, return to your hand with a club ruff and lead a diamond towards the dummy. ‘Jack, please,’ you say and when East’s ace appears the contract is yours. Suppose East had turned up with the club ace. West would then need 5 points in the minors to give him the minimum 15 points needed for a 1NT opening. You could read him for the ace of diamonds (and, in fact, the club jack). You would lead a diamond to the king instead.

What will you say on these West cards?

You cannot afford to let yourself be shut out with a hand of this quality facing a take-out double. Although your clubs are longer than your hearts, you should prefer 4H to 4C. Your partner is very likely indeed to hold four cards in hearts, the unbid major suit. Also, 4H is a game contract whereas 4C is only a part-score. It is possible that only nine tricks are available in hearts but the opponents are quite likely to sacrifice in 4S anyway, which you will be happy to double.

Awards: 4H - 10, 4C — 7, Double (responsive) — 5, 5C — 4, Pass — 3.

David Bird — Knight Features