From “Take All Your Chances” by Eddie Kantar”

How should you attack these hands? If you are declaring a notrump contract, count your sure tricks. If you don’t have enough to make the contract (you won’t!) look for some way to develop that missing trick or tricks. If you see at least two lines of play to secure those extra tricks, stay alive! Give yourself a chance to take both lines. At trump contracts counting losers and sure tricks is the way to go. If the total doesn’t come to 13, count your cards.

There are many hands where more than one line of play exists to make your contract. If you select the best percentage line, your chance of making the hand increases, but if you don’t … But why take the worst of it? The idea is to take the line of play, which if it doesn’t work, still allows you to take the other line, and there ever may even be a third line! This is called “staying alive”; in other words, avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket!

Unfortunately, but realistically, there will be hands where you have to decide immediately between several lines of play. The opponents have forced your hand and there is no time to try one line and then switch to another if the first doesn’t work. Now it helps to know a bit about percentages or the odds.

The bidding will be given and explained. Use the bidding as a guide in the play.

Assume IMP scoring. Play to make and do not worry about overtricks or undertricks.

West North East South
1♣ Pass 1♠
Pass 2♠ Pass 4NT
Pass 5 Pass 6♠
All Pass

Wild horses can’t keep you out of 6♠ after partner opens 1♣ and then raises spades. West leads the J. Plan the play.

With 11 top tricks, you have two chances for a 12th trick: the diamond finesse (needs West to have the king), or leading up to the ♣Q (also needs West to have the king).

Question: Which finesse to take first?

Answer: The one that keeps you alive even if it loses.

If you take the diamond finesse and it loses, you are down even if West has the ♣K. If you lead up to the ♣Q and it loses to East’s king, you can still make the hand if West has theK.
Draw trumps, play all the hearts ending in your hand, and lead a low club to the queen. You have a 75% chance of making this contract needing one of two finesses.