Defence: Active or Passive? by Julian Pottage (Part II)
In Part I we considered the very important topic of whether to conduct a busy or passive defence in suit contracts. Now we examine the same issue in no-trump contracts.
On 9 January, 2014 At 11:04
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In Part I we considered the very important topic of whether to conduct a busy or passive defence in suit contracts. In a busy or active defence you attack suits where declarer might be weak even at the risk of blowing a trick if partner does not have the hoped-for holding. With a passive defence you lead suits in which one side or the other has a solid holding or those in which the previous play of the suit has determined how many tricks each suit can take.
Now we examine the same issue in no-trump contracts. Most textbooks say that the majority of no-trump contracts
revolve around a race between declarer and the defenders to knock out opposing stoppers and set up their tricks first.
This is probably true but it is quite often better to sit back and let the other side make the running. As was the case with
suit contracts, a key indicator for an active defence is the presence of a threatening suit in dummy.
| K 7 5
Q J 9 7 3 2
| A Q J
10 8 6 5
J 8 5 2
West North East South
1 Pass 1NT
Pass 3NT Fin
West leads the four of spades, dummy plays low, you win with jack and South plays the two. Do you switch, so that dummy’s king of spades will not score, or do you return a spade?
A glance at dummy should tell you the answer. Any finesse declarer needs against a king in partner’s hand will work and there are plenty of entries in dummy to set up the diamond suit. If you defend passively, declarer is almost certainly going to make at least nine tricks. These are five diamonds (assuming West has one stopper), two hearts and two clubs.
A far better bet is to cash the ace of spades and continue with the queen. So long as the lead comes from a five-card suit and partner turns up with a top diamond, this should defeat the contract. It should also work whenever passive defence
would. Partner would need both top diamonds, so your side would score three spades (at least) and two diamonds.
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