Here is a play-of-the-hand tip for up-and-coming players.
How do you play this routine 3 notrump contract after a lead of the ♠5 to the 10 and your ♠Queen?
It appears that the lead is 4th best and that left hand opponent (LHO) has the ♠ Ace. After the first trick, your hands look like this:
First you count your tricks. Your sure tricks are 3 clubs, 2 diamonds, 2 hearts and 1 spade – for a total of 8. What is the best way to get your 9th trick?
Although clubs could break 3-3 for a 9th trick, the quickest and easiest way to a 9th trick is to play on hearts. Once the ♥Queen is knocked out you will have 3 heart tricks.
How should you play your hearts? You can finesse either way and can start in either hand. Does it matter?
Absolutely! If your right hand opponent (RHO) gets in with the ♥Q, she will return a spade through your king. Your LHO will then win all of his spade tricks and you will go down.
Whereas...if you LHO wins the ♥Q, he will be helpless to take any tricks other than the ♠Ace and you will make your contract!
You must play the hearts so that LHO has the opportunity to win the trick if he has the ♥Q. If he doesn't have it--fine, you will score at least 9 tricks. You must AVOID the dangerous opponent-which in this case is RHO. You must avoid letting RHO get the lead as she will cause you major problems.
This is a classic avoidance play that comes up frequently. It also comes up in various guises, so be on the lookout. Take pains to keep the "dangerous opponent" off the lead!
See you at the table!