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Spotting Chances
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Facing an uneven partner versus uneven opponents in a tight match, you encounter a potential slam deal:

South
AKQ852
6
Q83
J87
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
P
?

A minimum in high cards and a so-so holding facing a splinter, should we move on?

With excellent trumps (strength and length), possibly working shortness, and the ability to make a try below game, 4 is mandatory to me (some would play this as Last Train but this is not on the card in this partnership). Responder offers 5, suggesting a diamond void. Having made a forward-going move, we have no further extras and retreat to 5. Responder is not done and boosts us to 6

The opening lead is the A (K from AK). Take a moment to ponder your options as dummy appears.

North
97643
QJ84
AK63
South
AKQ852
6
Q83
J87
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

North
97643
QJ84
AK63
South
AKQ852
6
Q83
J87
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

The first impression is that we are a bit overboard with wasted red suit values and will need some good fortune. However the excellent trump fit combined with the nuisance value in hearts actually gives us a reasonable hope. Options include:

1)   Draw trump, play for Q to drop.

Surely we can do better.

2)   Play for LHO to have 1 heart honor and the Q (or club length).

Lead a heart towards dummy. If LHO hops, we can take a ruffing finesse later against RHO. If LHO ducks, we can try to ruff out the 2nd honor or fall back on a heart/club squeeze

3)   Play for RHO to have both top heart honors (or any 6) and Q. 

Surrender heart to RHO, draw trump, eliminate diamonds, and play for a trump squeeze reaching:

North
J8
AK
South
2
J87

While line 3 would be elegant and newspaper worthy, it is both anti-percentage and not automatic (we could misread the end position).

As it happens, there is an additional chance not readily apparent, but line 2 looks like the best bet to start.

Ruffing in dummy, trump to hand, heart up looks like the natural progression. 

The play proceeds:

West
North
97643
QJ84
AK63
East
South
AKQ852
6
Q83
J87
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
7
8
1
1
0
6
2
A
J
3
2
0
6
10
J
K
2
2
1
7
Q
2
4
3
3
1
4

Well, THAT is a surprise. Ruffing high was prudent but easy enough to get lazy. Having overcome the carelessness hurdle, option 2 isn't looking so good anymore as LHO does not have the remaining heart guard. The club pitch is interesting, suggesting 5+ cards. Looking closer at the club position, another possible solution comes to light. If RHO has a singleton 9 or 10 we can double finesse against LHO by starting with the J forcing a cover, then finessing against the remaining intermediate.

Drawing the last trump is the first order of business. LHO follows and RHO pitches a low diamond. Why would they be so generous as to not discard from their known heart holding? Looking for further information, a diamond is ruffed in dummy (no K appears, conventionally supposed to be with RHO), and a heart ruffed back to hand. LHO pitches another low club!

Either the opponents have pulled off an elaborate falsecarding campaign or LHO has 2155 shape and RHO 0751 shape. What's more is that they've gone out of their way to advertise that fact --- maybe to give us a losing option in the club suit when RHO has the stiff Q?

This dilemma occurs a fair amount of the time: have our opponents made a mistake or are they conning us? Against top-flight competition, the latter is more likely but no one is infallible. 

Time to decide: pin the 9/10 or drop the Q?

Given the level of the opponents, you take the 2:1 odds and put the J on the table. LHO ducks with nary a flicker. Another thought enters (better late than never). Perhaps the enemy distribution is actually LHO 2164 and RHO 0742. Hard to imagine RHO passing 4 with either but with this shape they are certainly more likely to do so. Are you going to reconsider?

You choose to back your initial instinct and anxiously run the J. RHO produces the ...... 9. Success! +1430 wins the match.

The full deal:

West
J10
10
AJ1096
Q10542
North
97643
QJ84
AK63
East
AK97532
K7542
9
South
AKQ852
6
Q83
J87
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Why did East pass 4? Why did the opponents so generously steer us to the winning line? Why do people stop at the bottom of escalators as if to celebrate some sort of achievement? These are questions to which I do not have answers.

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