North (dummy): ♠J10983 ♥J10985 ♦Q43 ♣—
South (declarer): ♠AQ ♥AK6 ♦AKJ2 ♣AKJ7
Contract: 6NT; West leads ♦8.
Make your playing plan.
We have often said that the very first act in playing plan is to count the winning tricks (or sometime the losing ones). As any meticulous bookkeeping knows, there’s a right and a wrong way to count.
Are two tricks in club, four in diamond; in heart are four, one in spade. 2+4+4+1 = eleven tricks, a total that could increase to twelve or thirteen depending how ♥Q and ♠K are placed. The Wrong Plan, son of Mr. Wrong Count, is this: Win the diamond lead by Ace, draw heart Ace, King and deuce. If the Queen hadn’t fallen, the spade finesse will need. The overall percentage of this plan is 65,5 (31% for falling ♥Q combined with 50% for ♠K finessing): it’s a satisfying amount for an intermediate player.
The good Accountant, instead, sorts out the pears from the bananas, makes two counts and compares them:
A): Are two tricks in club, four in diamond; in heart are two by head and two by length. In spade is one by head. The total is eleven (2+4+2+2+1), increasable as above.
B): Are two tricks in club, four in diamond; in heart are two tricks by head; in spade are one by head and three by length. The total is twelve (2+4+2+1+3), then doesn’t need finessing nor hoping on falling Queen.
The Right plan then is: Win the diamond lead by Ace and play at once the spade Queen; that’s all. If the opponents duck, we have the 12th trick and we’ll shift to heart; if they cash the ♠K, the spades were established.
Warning: the opponents are sometime fussy accountants too. Don’t draw the ♠A before the Queen; the stiff king in 5-1 break happens only 2,5% times. If the spades are 3-3, or the K holder has four cards or more and holds the protected ♥Q too, he’ll duck the ♠Q. When we’ll go toward heart (if he ducks, we cannot set the spade), he’ll win the third round in the suit and will cash the ♠K too.