Exceptions to the Rule by Jean Besse

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When a tricky trump contract is reached, defender’s task is often tough.

Sergio Apoteker, Eddie Kaplan, Jean Besse, Leda Pain, 24th World Team Championships Rio de Janeiro 1979
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When a tricky trump contract is reached, defender’s task is often tough.

Average players when in doubt, follow certain general principles. Among them:

1. Do not give declarer a ruff and discard.

2. When, possible force declarer to ruff in his own hand, shortening his trump suit.

Bridge play, however. Cannot always be reduced to such simple formulae.

North dealer, Game All

 J 10 8 3
 5 2
 A J 10 3 2
 A K
 A 6 5 4
 A K J 4 3
 5
 10 8 3
 7
 10 9 8 7
 9 3
 Q 9 7 6 5 2
   K Q 9 2
 Q 6
 K Q 8 7 4
 J 4

The bidding:

West North East South
 1  Pass  1
 Doblo  2  Pass  3
Pass  4  All Pass

West leads K, A dropping South’s doubleton Queen. Now what?

If West passively leads a club or a diamond, declarer forces West’s trump Ace and regaining the lead, pulls all trumps out and eventually runs his established diamonds.

West therefore must take action. This action can only be direct against declarer’s trumps. Thus, at trick three,West leads the J. allowing declarer a ” ruff and discard.

South of course has to expend a trump, let us say from his own hand. South then Men offers the K to West but Wen does not care.

He just ducks K West and Q as well.

West takes his A in the third round and leads a killing fourth heart removing North´s last trump: down goes the contract, West having established a trump and a heart for down two. (Alternatively should South stop leading trumps after the second round, West will make his small trump by ruffing for down one. Simple but consider the following.

East dealer Love All

 6 5 4
 A K 5
 A J 3
 7 6 4 2
 A Q 10 2
 9 4
 9 8 2
 A K 9 3

The bidding begins:

West North East South
 Pass  1
 Doblo  redoblo  Pass Pass
1  ?

Now what? Should North bid Two Hearts? The hand is strong for that, and Three Hearts is also not ideal. In my opinion the best call is PASS, for South, after North has redoubled, must not let the opponents play in One Spade undoubled.

It so happens that South’s next bid is Two Diamonds; whereupon North, with his good fit for both suits, raises to FOUR HEARTS.

West opens K, East plays the Queen and South follows suit. West of course leads a small club at trick 2, East being marked with J. Either East will win and lead a spade or declarer will have to ruff, shortening his trump suit, in accordance with the above Principle 2. And of course West should have thought a little more before leading this silly small club. Is it not easy to reconstruct the full hand? Remember that East passed the redouble of One Heart, so is unlikely to have more than three spades. South must hold, at the least:

 K x x
 Q J 10 x x
 K Q 10 x
 x

You can see now why that second club from West is a lazy play. It allows declarer to effect a dummy reversal by ruffing three clubs in his own hand. That will give him ten tricks—three hearts in dummy, three ruffs by South and four diamonds. But if West leads a heart or a diamond at trick 2 South will be an entry short for the dummy reversal and will make only nine tricks

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