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 2 2 2♠
Pass 4♠ All Pass

You open 1♠ partner responds 2, East bids 2, you repeat your spades and partner bids 4♠. Simple enough. West leads the3, fetching the king from East. Plan the play.

You have a heart loser, two possible club losers and a possible spade loser. On the plus side, you have a side suit that can furnish discards for two of your losers providing you resolve your trump problem. What is important is to realize that West is the danger hand, the hand that can lead a club through dummy’s ♣K.

You have to think differently when there is a danger hand. You have to think avoidance. You have to direct your finesses into the non-danger hand, East. Furthermore, if you win theA, and East gets in, East can put West in with the Q, defeating your purpose. Therefore, the first obligatory play is to duck the  K and win the likely heart return.

Now is the time to attack the trump suit making sure West does not get in. Lead the ♠K and then the ♠J. If West follows low, play low perhaps losing to Q–x in the East hand. No matter. You have ensured the contract. If East has the ♣A and doesn’t cash it, he goes to bed with it. If the ♠J holds, you have the rest of the tricks. If West shows out on the second spade, play the ace and concede a spade to East who again must cash the ♣A or lose it.

Bravo, you have made an “avoidance duck” at trick one plus an avoidance finesse at trick four!

Tip: Protecting an unguarded king from a premature attack is often the overriding consideration when planning the play.