The secret of good declarer play lies mostly in visualizing how the unseen cards are divided and putting this knowledge to effective use. The clues that furnish declarer with a picture of the opposing hands can come from the bidding, the play or both.
Consider this deal where declarer failed to process the many clues available. It was played in the South Africa- Ireland match at the 1960 World Team Olympiad.
The South African declarer got to four hearts doubled as shown, and West led the club queen. South won with the ace, cashed the ace of trumps, felling East’s king, then led a diamond and successfully finessed the queen.
After discarding a club on the ace of diamonds, declarer led a spade to the king, losing to the ace. South eventually lost two more spades and a trump trick and finished down one, -200 points. He was able to ruff his fourth spade in dummy to prevent an even greater loss.
South’s early plays were certainly correct. The diamond finesse, though dangerous, was necessary, but after it succeeded South should have reassessed his prospects and made the contract.
It was a serious mistake to lead a spade to the king at trick five. To play a spade from dummy was surely right, but to play the king was surely wrong. South should have placed West with the spade ace for his takeout double, because East had already turned up with the king of hearts and (by inference from West’s opening lead) king of clubs.
Had South played a low spade on East’s eight at trick five and later played a low spade again, he would have gained a spade trick and made the contract. He also would have been 990 points to the better. ¦