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
Pass 1♣ Pass 1♠
3 3♠ Pass 4♠

Partner opens 1♣, East passes, you respond 1♠, West joins in with 3, vulnerable. Partner coughs up 3♠. You downgrade your Q and conclude the auction with a 4♠ bid.
West leads the J (standard leads). Plan the play.There is not much to the play of this hand if you don’t get greedy. Count your tricks! You have 10 top tricks if you win the A. Of course there is a strong chance that West has the K, but this is not tournament bridge. These hands are designed to show you how to ensure contracts and keep partners, not how to risk contracts and lose them!

Notice how greed strikes out on this layout. East would win the K and shift to the 2 and the defense would collect the first four tricks. You would have to do quite a bit of explaining in the postmortem.

Tip: Playing tournament bridge and given the 3 bid, vulnerable no less, it is worth the risk of losing your contract by playing low at trick one to make an extra heart trick. However, if you know that West would not lead from a king at gunpoint, play the ace!

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