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♠
2 3♣ Pass 3NT
All Pass

Partner opens 1, you respond 1♠, West overcalls 2, partner chimes in with 3♣, and your 3NT bid ends the auction, partner passing reluctantly. West leads the 6, East plays the9, and there you are in the wrong contract (partner’s fault, of course). Plan the play.

Obviously, you can’t give up the lead, and you have two suits to work with: diamonds, a suit missing a queen, and clubs, a suit missing the king. What to do? Remember your “combining rule” and stay alive, stay alive!

Start by cashing the A and K. If the queen drops, you have 10 tricks. If it doesn’t, cross to the ♠A. No finesse, please! Even if the ♠J holds, you still need the club finesse so why take a practice (unnecessary) finesse? After winning the ♠A, run the ♣Q. If it holds, cash a second spade, discarding a diamond from dummy, and repeat the finesse running the 10.

When you can’t afford to give up the lead and you have two finesse suits going for you – one missing a queen, the other a king, either suit affording you enough tricks to make your contract if the finesse works – play the A–K of the suit missing the queen, and if the queen doesn’t drop, take a finesse in the suit missing the king.