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 Dbl 2 2♠
Pass 4♠ All Pass

West opens 1, partner doubles, East raises to 2, you try 2♠. Partner, who can never take a joke, raises to 4♠.

West leads theK, continues with the Q, East playing high-low, attitude, and plays a third heart to East’s ace, which you ruff.

You have already lost two heart tricks and with a little luck you’ll be able to dispose of your diamond loser on a club. The problem is the trump suit. You have to hold your trump losses to one trick and there are only two holdings that allow for this. You have to find one opponent with A–x of spades. If East has A–x, you must lead a low spade to your queen and then duck a spade to East’s now lone ace. However, if West has A–x, you must lead a low spade from your hand to the king and then duck a spade to West’s now lone ace.

As West opened the bidding and East has already turned up with theA, West must have the ♠A. Backing your judgment, cross to a club and lead a low spade to the king. Assuming it wins, duck a second spade and hope to see the ace come tumbling down on your left. Guess what? You have just made a finesse obligata, an obligatory finesse, and it worked!

Tip: As a defender holding Q–J–x–(x) of a side suit that you haven’t led and see the A–K–10 to your left in dummy, it is usually safe to switch to a low card in that suit early in the hand. It is highly unlikely that declarer, unless desperate, will insert the 10.