I found myself in 3NT with these hands. I believe that I jumped to 3NT after partner opened 1♣.
The Q♥ was led and it was clear that I had enough tricks--at least 10. As this was a pair game, however, it was incumbent on me to look for the 11th.
I won the heart and played a diamond to the king which RHO won. She seemed to be considering a (spade) switch but, instead, continued hearts. Now I ran my clubs, putting LHO under pressure. At one point she made a telling discard: the 3♠. When I inquired about the carding I was informed that they were playing odd-even discards. Very informative. I judged that this was a true card and that LHO did indeed hold the spade king. This steered me away from a possible spade finesse, but, instead, set the stage for an endplay.
I cashed the diamonds and ran the clubs, pitching a diamond on the 5th club and was down to these cards:
I now exited with a heart, and sure enough, LHO had come down to one heart and the Kx of spades and was forced to lead into my spade tenace. Making 5 was worth most of the matchpoints.
This hand reminded me of a hand that Erwin Linzner had related to me earlier in the week in which his LHO also made a telling discard and he executed a similar endplay. Erwin's hand came in a regional pair game at the San Francisco NABC and helped him and Gary Robinson nab a second place finish in the event.
Erwin found himself in 6NT with these hands. His story follows.
Gary opened 1♠, I bid 2♣, and after a minorwood auction I decided to blast and bid 6NT. I opted for NT rather a club slam because this was a matchpoint game.
So I got a heart lead. Looking at dummy I was not pleased with my decision. I had 9 tricks off the top, so I had to develop 3 tricks. There are 2 possible lines. RHO has Kxx in spades (low odds - maybe 18 percent) or find the Q♥ onside, K♠ onside, and the K♦ onside (about 13 percent). Not exactly a great slam. Is there a way to combine chances?
In any case there was no harm in taking the heart finesse. If off, I can still fall back on Kxx of spades onside. So I called for J♥ and RHO contributed the 10. Great, my chances had improved. Both possible winning scenarios required a spade from dummy towards my queen. So at trick two I played a low spade towards the Q. To my surprise the Q won the trick. I now have 11 tricks.
So it was time to play a few rounds of clubs and see what happened. I led K♣ from hand and LHO pitched a heart. I played the Q♣ and LHO signaled encouragement in diamonds. If that's a legitimate signal, the diamond finesse won't work. I now play a low club towards the ace and LHO pitches a spade. Well, that pitch makes it safe to test the spades. If spades are 3-3 I'm home free. If not, LHO, with 2 only spades, will be 6-5 in the red suits and ripe for an endplay.
The A♠ produces another red card from LHO. It is now time to cash the K♥ before crossing back to my hand. RHO pitches a diamond. That confirms the distribution: LHO started with 2-6-5-0. I am now cold if LHO has the K♦
I finish clubs ending in hand. My last 4 cards are ♥A9 and ♦AQ. LHO has 2 options: keep both honors guarded in the red suits or stiff either honor. My opponent chose the first option since he did have the K♦. I cashed the A♥ and exited with the 9♥. When LHO won the Q♥ I showed my hand. Making 6NT was a top board.
Lessons for defense here are:
1) The hand is defeated if my RHO pops the K♠ at trick 2. That eliminates the endplay and there are no squeezes on this layout. Difficult to anticipate that early in the hand.2) Be careful on signaling where key cards are (i.e., LHO encouraged in diamonds) if it will help declarer. RHO certainly didn't need that information. In this case it pointed towards the winning line versus the losing one for declarer.
Thanks Erwin--well done! I appreciate the symmetry of these two hands. We both threw our left hand opponent in with hearts late in the hand, forcing them to lead into our AQ tenaces.
See you at the table!