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Poetic Justice
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North
103
KJ1063
1087
AJ8
South
AK84
A
QJ9
Q10764
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
3NT
P
P
P

As declarer in Thursday's common game, I had the following problem in 3NT.  They led the 5 (4th best) which came around to my 9.  I led a low club to dummy's jack. That held so I crossed to my ace of hearts.  Now I led the queen of clubs and West pitched the 6.  I said, "check again." West did and produced the king of clubs.  I won and East followed with the 9.  Now here I am with the 6 penalty card on the table in the following position:

North
103
KJ106
108
8
South
AK84
QJ
1076
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
3NT
P
P
P

For those that don't know the rules. A penalty card must be played at its first legal opportunity. Additionally if the partner of the person who has a penalty card gets on lead declarer can demand or forbid them from leading the penalty card suit in which case the penalty card gets picked up, or allow them to lead whatever they want with the penalty card remaining on the table.

What is the best way to capitalize on this penalty card?

North
103
KJ106
108
8
South
AK84
QJ
1076
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
3NT
P
P
P

The most obvious play to me is to lead the 10 from dummy and if the QJ are both with West then the 10 will hold the trick as he is forced to play the 6. Thinking about it further, I saw another possible option. Since the 9 fell on the second round, my 8 is an entry to dummy. So I can lead the jack of hearts from the table and no matter who wins the trick, I can demand a spade lead back to enjoy 11 or 12 tricks depending on the heart break.  

The big risk is if the queen of hearts is dropping doubleton. If it is doubleton then just cashing out my tricks will get me 5, 1, 2, 4 and by playing the jack of hearts I will only come to 11 tricks.  Unfortunately I can't afford to cash the king of hearts first because now any time hearts are 5-2 West will be able to discard the spade on the 3rd round of hearts. I decided to go for it and ...

West
QJ76
8
AK652
K52
North
103
KJ1063
1087
AJ8
East
952
Q97542
43
93
South
AK84
A
QJ9
Q10764
D

My J lead was won by East and since West had no more hearts he could discard the 6, resolving his penalty card.  Now East could lead back a diamond and send me down 1 for a worldwide zero.  

In my post-hand frustration I came to two observations. The first is I believe that my play was wrong. Putting myself at risk to take fewer tricks than the field in order to capitalize on the penalty card was greedy and unnecessary.  I had a perfectly reasonable chance of leading the 10 from dummy as a way to benefit without risking any tricks.

The second observation was that there was a clue that West had a singleton heart.  The trick before they played the illegal card, I led a heart to the ace. Clearly what happened was that my opponent assumed I would play another heart, which he was void in. That may not have been a safe assumption but I just thought it was interesting that there was actually information available to me to indicated the hearts were 1-6.  

I deserved my zero but I'm glad I got it.

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