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Heart Blockage

7 4 3
8 7 3 2
J 5
K 6 4 2
K 10
Q J 10 9 5
A 8 6 4
7 5
 
Q 8 6 2
K
10 7 2
A J 10 9 8
A J 9 5
A 6 4
K Q 9 3
Q 3

Notrump

East/West have a lot of potential tricks, but the blockage in hearts is their downfall as declarer. On a diamond or spade opening lead, North/South kill one entry, and, when West wins and leads a heart to the king, South ducks. To set up the hearts, then, West needs two more entries, entries he doesn't have. East/West then get a heart, two spades, and a diamond. Can East get three club tricks? No matter how hard he tries, he cannot do so without losing two clubs first, which gives the defense three diamonds, a spade, a heart, and two clubs.
If North/South declare notrump, though, West's two entries are enough. A heart to the king is led, and South should duck. East leads a low spade, South wins the ace and can kill one entry but not the other. West wins at the first opportunity and sets up hearts, and gets a diamond, at least one spade, a club and four hearts. (The only way to keep East's Q from scoring actually lets East score a second club instead, so the defense actually has eight tricks.)

Spades

If North/South declare spades, the defense starts with hearts. South does not good to duck, so he wins and attacks diamonds. Too late, West wins the ace, pitches two diamonds on hearts, and leads a fourth round of hearts, pitching a club. Sout to play at:
7 4 3
8
J
K 6 4 2
K 10
10 9
8 6 4
7 5
 
Q 8 6 2
A J 10 9 8
A J 9 5
K Q 9
Q 3
East/West have scored three tricks already, and they have two natural tricks in trumps left, as well as the A. If South ruffs, the defenders get a third spade trick. If he doesn't ruff, then he gets the A, two spades or a heart.
If East/West declare spades, the defense starts with diamonds and East doesn't get to pitch any diamonds. The defense ultimately gets two diamonds, two spades, a heart and two clubs.

Hearts

It is somewhat difficult to believe that East/West can be held to six tricks in hearts. They have what appears to be four heart tricks and a trick in each other suit. But the spade trick is the most vulernable, and it vanishes in a puff of smoke.
The defense starts with diamonds, West either holding up one round or not. What does West do, now that he's in? The only vulnerable trick he has is spades, so he'd better set it up. South wins the spade king lead with the ace, cashes the heart ace, and then cashes his diamond, West forced to follow and North pitching his two remaining spades. South then gives North a ruff in spades and leads a club at this position:
8 7
K 6 4 2
Q J 10 9
7 5
 
Q 8
A J 10 9
J 9
6 4
Q 3
East/West need the rest, but the club lead forces them to take the entry before the trumps are drawn, so that the spade queen can't be cashed.
Of course, if North/South were declaring hearts, they can attack spades right away, and North won't have time to pitch his spade losers.

Diamonds

If North/South declare, the defense leads to the heart king. South wins and attack trumps, but too late. West wins the second trump and starts cashing hearts, East pitching spades. If South ruffs the fourth round of hearts, that promotes a trump trick for West.
If East/West declare, the defense starts with diamonds, and West wins the second round. He leads a heart to the king, and South ducks. Now East is on lead at this position:
7 4 3
8 7 3
K 6 4 2
K 10
Q J 10 9
8 6
7 5
 
Q 8 6 2
10
A J 10 9 8
A J 9 5
A 6
K Q
Q 3
Whatever East leads, South gets an entry to draw trumps and play ace and another spade. That kills the West hand completely, and the defense still gets two clubs, and the heart ace.

Clubs

If East/West declare clubs, the defense attacks diamonds and West wins the first or second.
If he attacks hearts, South wins and plays the rest of his diamonds, North pitching two small spades. If East doesn't ruff the fourth diamond, the defense gets three diamonds, a heart, a spade, a spade ruff and a club. So East must ruff, and we're at this end position:
7
8 7 3
K 6 4 2
K 10
Q J 10 9
7 5
 
Q 8 6 2
A J 10 9
A J 9 5
6 4
Q 3
East is on lead, but what does he lead? If he leads a spade, South wins the ace, continues a spade, North ruffs. North then leads a club, and, if East finesses, North gets another spade ruff, while if East plays the ace, the defense gets two clubs directly. Even then, there is the eventual spade loser. Basically, East can't avoid lots of losers.
If North/South are declaring in clubs, East starts with the K, and South should duck. East then leads a spade and South wins the ace and starts diamond, but it is too late - West wins the ace and leads a high heart and East pitches a diamond, and the defense is restricted to two diamond. Now South has to win. He cashes one diamond, but East can ruff the third round, cross with a spade to West and leads high hearts, pitching two spades. South can ruff, but he's ruffing with a natural trump.
North/South get only five tricks.
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Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 1999-2014.
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