Mercercrest was recommended on BridgeWinners and sure enough, when I asked whether I could play, I got a better response. One of the rotating directors offered to play with me to see who I would best match with later.
Playing with an obviously better player, the first board of the evening has me opening 1C in 3rd seat with ♠543 ♥J63 ♦85 ♣AKQ85. LHO bids 1H, partner bids 1S, RHO doubles and they end up in 3D.
Partner leads the Ace of spades. Dummy comes down with ♠QT8 ♥QT ♦KT932 ♣T62. Seeing the queen in dummy, partner switches to the 3 of clubs. Under your Queen of clubs, declarer drops the Jack. What do you play next?
The Jack, I decided, could be a false card since declarer was protected by the 10 of clubs in dummy, so I attempted to cash one more club. Disaster, as declarer proceeded to discard his spade on his good hearts. The hand was:
Needless to say, trying to cash the Ace of clubs was a boneheaded move. I simply needed to lead a spade to allow partner to cash her spade. My Queen of clubs was clear, and so partner knows to lead back a club. Declarer's hearts are not going away if partner has a winner in that suit, but if declarer's hearts are solid, dummy's spades will vanish.
A few more such boards and I was thinking that things were not going well. The partner I was going to be matched up with next time was probably going to be as poor a player I was being this evening. Towards the second half of the evening, though, I finally found my footing. This was the last board of the evening.
I was declarer on this deal:
I had the North hand. What would you open?
Most of the field opened 1C and played in 3C or 4C, making 4. I opened it 2C (4 losers) and played it in 5C. I got a trump lead. Plan the play.
Most of the field took the losing heart finesse or mismanaged entries and made only four on the layout.
I decided that the key was to discard diamonds on dummy's hearts. And if hearts are 4-2, you need two dummy entries. So carefully save the 3 of clubs. Take the first trick with the 9 of clubs and play two rounds of hearts ending up in dummy. Ruff a heart with the Ace of clubs, and be happy that the hearts do not break 3-3. Play a club (not the 3) to the Queen and ruff the fourth heart high. Finally, play the 3 of clubs to the 4, and discard a diamond on the fifth heart. Finally, lead a spade to the king. It loses, but you have your 11 tricks for a top. The nice, flashy declarer play won't hurt your case.