On the very next board, the opponents bash to 3NT after strong 1C, neg 1D and 1NT showing 17-18. It's my lead and I have QJx/J98/xxx/KQxx. I go with a spade honor and dummy comes down.
Declarer takes the K as partner encourages and ducks a H to your 8, partner playing the 2, even number or a holding unsuitable for other contribution. You're up.
What's going on? Is declarer trying to steal a game with something like Axx/AKTxx/AQx/xx or is he perhaps just building a potential heart trick with AKxx? How should we defend to beat this contract against the maximum number of layouts? Why did we just go down in a slam?
The decision to go active or passive when in defence is sometimes the hardest one to make. I decided to shift to a club honor. This would avoid the 'steal' and while giving up a trick when declarer has the ace, it might not be over as it also builds a trick for the defence.
This was the full deal:
Wrong - but not fatal. Declarer grabbed the ace and played the 9 of spades from hand to Frederic's ten. Nothing mattered now. We could always get five tricks before declarer could get nine and a bullet was dodged. A low club shift would have been the end of the defence's chances.
Teammates were +150 when North (Mårten) found a minimum (within 17-19 range) with 4-4 in the majors and the auction halted at 2NT. He didn't let any fear of missing a [possibly] playable game affect his evaluation of the hand's worth.
Don't panic on defence and, whenever possible, look for ways to hedge your bets.