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 3NT
All Pass

Partner opens 1♣, and not having any clever methods to describe your hand, you leap to 3NT, a bid which tends to end all auctions as it does this one.

West leads the J: Plan the play.

It looks easy enough. There are tricks galore … yet there is a danger. See it?

The danger is the diamond suit. You are vulnerable to a diamond attack from West. But how can West get in? One way is with the ♠A, but you can’t do anything about that. However, you don’t want to give West any other chance to get in if you can help it. And you can. If you play clubs from the top and West has Q–x–x, you will have to concede a club to West. At this point, you only have eight tricks and if West shifts to a diamond and East has the king you could go down on this hand.

This never has to happen. Win the K, cash the ♣K and lead a club to the jack. If it loses to East, so what? You now have four club tricks, three hearts, the A and you can set up one spade trick before West can get in to lead a diamond.

It isn’t always the suit that is led that is your problem suit. You might be vulnerable to a switch in another suit from a particular opponent called the danger hand. Your job is to keep the danger hand off lead for as long as possible. Directing a finesse into the non-danger hand (finessing the club into East) is the way to go.