Sometimes hands crop up which really hit the spot for me. This deal is all about deduction and careful thought, before the uncovering of the information you require to make the key decision.
You are in 3NT and West, thankfully, leads 3s. How will you play the hand?
Clearly, all will depend on the club suit. Lose a trick there and the opponents will surely switch to diamonds and take four or five tricks quickly.
Let’s think this through before making any quick decisions. Declarer should win the lead to avoid an immediate diamond switch, and then cash four rounds of hearts. On the third and fourth rounds, West discards low diamonds. This alone suggest that she is protecting her club suit, but there is a more compelling deduction: West’s 3h lead marks her with a 4-card suit, and she held only two hearts. This leaves her seven cards in clubs and diamonds. These must be dividing 4-3 since, if West held a 5-card suit, surely she would have led that rather than a pretty poor 4-card spade suit. Knowing that West holds at least three clubs allows declarer to lay down Ac and then lead 10c. If West does not cover, run it, knowing that it will win.
Here's the full deal:
S Q973 S J854
H J10 H 9852
D 10432 D AK97
C Q84 C 3
If this hand excites you then you’re far too good a player to be bothering with old wives tales, and one of the oldest – and most destructive – is this:
With 9 cards between the two hands, missing the queen, play for the drop;
With 8 cards between the two hands, missing the queen, finesse the queen.
If you have absolutely no other information, I suppose so. But, I mean zero information. Even the tiniest inference should guide you towards a play with better odds than those.
It’s all about thinking and not about remembering rules.