Playing in No Trump is often a battle of long suits: the Declarer's long suit versus the Defender's long suit. If the long suit is set up, (the high cards or controlling cards are removed) then the low cards in that suit can win tricks. 
     An important consideration when playing the hand in No Trump is the link between Declarer's hand and Dummy. The Dummy might have a long suit with lots of winners, but if the lead is in Declarer's hand with no way of getting to the table, then these winners are worthless. How do you keep the lines of transportation open between the Dummy and the Declarer's hand? Answer: DUCK!
     In the May hand of the month we looked at the Holdup Play. This was severing the transportation links between the Defenders. The Duck however, is the creating of transportation links between the closed hand and the table. 
      Before we go on to this month's hand, let's look at an example of de Duck in de tail.

C A K 7 6 5 3

C 4 2 

In the example above, the Dummy has the long Club suit with no outside entries. (No way to get to Dummy other than with the Club suit.) If the Ace and then the King of Clubs are played then a Defender will win the third Club trick. But the good Clubs in Dummy will be stranded. There will be no way to get to Dummy. Even the Staten Island Ferry or the Concord will not get Declarer to the Dummy. (Although the Concord will not get the Declarer there much faster.)
      The way to keep the connection between Dummy and Declarer is to play the 2 C from the hand and the 3 C from the Dummy. That is Duck the first trick. Losing the first trick (the Duck) rather than the third trick makes the 4 C the connector. When Declarer gets the lead (after losing the first Club trick), she then plays the 4 C. The A C wins the trick: the K C the next trick; and the rest of the Clubs are good (assuming a 3/2 split) with the lead in the Dummy. 
      One Club trick will always have to be lost. Lose it sooner rather than later by Ducking. This is not bridge quackery.
      Now let's look at this month's hand where some fowl play is a foot.

South, with 17 High Card Points (HCP) and a balanced hand, opens the bidding with 1 No Trump. If North/South's  No Trump range is 16 - 18 points, then North with 9 points knows that the combined point count has the range of 25 to 27. North can invite South to game by bidding 2 No Trump.  This is an Invitational bid and says: "Partner, if you have the maximum of your bid (18 HCP) then bid 3 No Trump; if the minimum (16 HCP) then pass." 
      Another consideration is the 6 card Club suit in North's hand. To make a game in a minor suit the combined point count is around 29. North's hand has too many holes and not enough points for such an attempt. But the long Clubs might be useful in No Trump. And then there is always that A Das an entry. All this is too good for an invitational bid of 2 No Trump. So North bids 3 No Trump. 

Since the Defenders make the opening lead, they have the advantage: they can set up their long suit before the Declarer can set up hers. So West should go after her long suit which is Hearts. (The K S is a possible entry to hand later on in the play.) If East has a couple of Heart honors, the Defense might make 5 tricks before the Declarer can make 9.
     In general, the best lead, from both the attacking and safety point of view, is from the top of a sequence. Lead the J H.

Dummy comes down. Do not play a small Heart. Make a plan first. A good plan is based on counting, and in a No Trump contract Declarer counts winners off the top.  That is, tricks you can win without having to give up the lead. Also, assume all finesses will lose and the worst possible distribution. So let's do it. 
      1 Spade;  3 Hearts; 1 Diamond; and 1 Club.  That makes a total of 6 winners; 3 tricks short of what is needed to make 3 No Trump.  What  to do? 
     PLAN: The Spade finesse can produce 1 trick; and a 3/3 split in Diamonds (less than a 50% chance) or the K D doubleton in West's hand can produce 2 other tricks. Too many things at high odds have to be right for this approach to work.
      The Club suit, however, is the best source for the 3 tricks. To work, there just has to be a 3/2 split in Clubs. (67% chance.)
      But what about entries? If the A C and another Club are played the Defenders will win. The A D will be used to get to Dummy to lead the third Club. But that exhausts Dummy's entries, and the rest of the Club winners in Dummy are isolated and unreachable. What to do? Answer: don't be a chicken, DUCK! 
      PLAY: After winning the first Heart trick, lead the 3 C and play the 2 C from Dummy (Duck # 1). It does not matter who wins. If East wins and returns a low Spade, play the 5 S from the closed hand. Either West wins with his K S or Dummy wins with the 10 S. In either case the contract is not in jeopardy. (If West wins with the K S and returns a Diamond, play a small Diamond from Dummy, keeping the A D as an entry.) 
      If East wins and returns the J S, Declarer covers with the Q S. If West wins with the 
S, then the10 S in Dummy is now promoted to a winner. Again Declarer is invulnerable. (A Diamond return by East will cost the Defense a trick.)
      Duck #2: Once Declarer gets the lead, she plays the 10C and then plays the 4C from Dummy. 
      When Declarer regains the lead, she can  use the A D as the entry to Dummy. Now, the remaining Clubs in Dummy are winners. However, since the Defenders still have a high Club, the Ace must be played first. 
      Declarer makes 4 Clubs, 1 Diamond, 3 Hearts and 1 Spade. 9 tricks for Game, Set, and Match.

1. Should Declarer take the winners in Hearts before playing Clubs?

2. What is the only opening lead that could set the contract?

The Defense is pretty straightforward. West could play the K C when the 3 C is played from the closed hand. This might tempt Declarer to win the trick with the A C. After all, Aces take Kings. But if Declarer did this,  the vital link to Dummy would be severed. Even if Declarer Ducks the next trick (the Defense wins and returns a Heart), the contract is unmakable. Quack, quack.