Some hands, even relatively simple ones, seem to defeat everyone — as happened here when, at 30 tables, the defence failed to cash their five winners. What could be so difficult?

Dealer:South N/S Game
North EastSouthWest

South’s opening promised a 5-card heart suit. West led A♦ and East must decide which card she should play? If partner leads the ace, most players holding QJ would drop the queen. This indicates either a singleton queen (since you would not drop Queen from Qx), or a holding of QJ to some number of cards. Here, playing the queen looks correct.

Every West continued with a diamond and left East on lead at trick 4. There is now no way for E/W to cash two spade winners before declarer draws trumps, and discards two spades from her hand on two winning clubs. 3H made.

Upon seeing the first trick, North needs to think carefully. With a relatively balanced dummy, there appears to be no hurry to cash tricks, but dummy’s club suit could provide discards for the declarer. Since switching to a spade will really only cost if South holds J♠, it seems a reasonable plan to hope for two spade tricks and three diamond tricks to beat the contract. At trick 2, West should switch to a spade; 4♠ will do. If declarer plays low from dummy, East must insert J♠. Now, five tricks come easily…

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