False-carding By Ely Culbertson

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False-carding may very well be compared with fire. If handled properly, it will prove a very valuable servant to the Bridge player, but if not respected, it will turn around and bring disaster.

By Ana Roth
On 2 September, 2016 At 16:19

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Reading Eagle – 12 Oct 1932

False-carding may very well be compared with fire. If handled properly, it will prove a very valuable servant to the Bridge player, but if not respected, it will turn around and bring disaster.

False-carding as Declarer and false-carding on the defense are two entirely different problems.

In the first case, there is no one to fool but the opponents, and you are free to play any card you wish. But if you are playing the defense it is just as important not to eq. fool your partner as to mislead the Declarer. In short, intelligent false-carding may prove a very valuable way to make the enemy err, but if done unintelligently, it will turn into a boomerang.

There are certain types of false-carding which are generally accepted as good, and which offer a better than even chance of success. The generally accepted theory behind false-carding is to prevent the opposition from getting an accurate count on your hand, which would be materially aided by the drop of each low card in its proper order.

Less frequently, false-carding is done to mislead the opponents as to the location of an honor. Fake strength signals come under this category if made when it is known that they cannot cause your partner to make a wrong play. In addition, there are several well-known coups for instance, dropping the Queen when holding Queen-Ten alone to enable you to make your Ten, or taking a trick with a higher card than necessary and temporarily abandoning a tenace position, in order to give the Declarer a false feeling of securit, which causes him to play into your hands.

A generally accepted false-card by expert players, after you have led the fourth best of a five-card suit against no trump, is not to drop your lower one on the second round of the suit, but to drop your next higher one and make Declarer think you have only four of that suit, and he may thereby not hold up his stopper long enough to shut your partner out.

Then, most Declarers, holding the Ace-King of a suit, will invariably take the Ace on the first round of the suit when the opponents lead it to him, thinking they have make a brilliant false-card. There are times when the Ace is the proper play, but there is probably an equally large number of times when it would be better tactics and better psychology to take the trick with the King.

I have no doubt that a whole book could be written on this subject—that is, when to take the Ace and when to take the King. Suppose you are the Declarer at a three no trump contract. A heart is opened, and you have three to the King in Dummy and three to the Ace-Queen in your hand. You naturally do not fear hearts, but there is another suit which is practically wide open and to which you do not wish the opponents to shift when they get in. On the low card opening you play low from Dummy, and Junior plays the 9. Blindly false-carding and taking the trick with the Ace is probably the worst play that you could make. The opening leader will now know that you must have the Queen, and will shift as soon as he gets in. But if you take the first trick with the Queen, it will appear quite possible to the Opening leader that Junior has been withholding the Ace, whereas, he couldn’t possibly have withheld the Queen.

If false-carding is done intelligently and with as much thought as is used, shall we say, in preparing for a squeeze, it will bring you many extra tricks; but if a player invariably false-cards and invariably plays the higher of two cards in a case where it makes no difference, he will prove an open book to any intelligent adversary, and will find himself practically consistently on the short end of the score.

Today’s Pointer

False-carding either by the Declarer or by one of the defending players is an art. When the Declarer holds two cards of equal value, it is frequently a very important decision as to which he should play in winning the trick!

The defending players in false-carding run the risk of misleading their partners, and this must always be taken into consideration.


Study the hand, decide how you would bid and play it, and then compare the results you obtain with those shown below…

The Gambit in Bridge

Devotees of Chess use the word – gambit to designate a play which involves the deliberate giving up of a yawn for position or to gain time for an attack. Some of the most brilliant games of Chess on record have developed from various forms of the gambit. In Bridge, the occasion quite frequently arises for the use of similar tactics and the term gambit might appropiately applied to the play involving the sacrifice of a ranking card in order to achieve the desired result.

As John W. Jacobson of Toronto. Ont., points out, the recognition of such a situation before it is too late is the mark, of a fine player, and the hand below which was played recently in Toronto, exemplifies a typical Bridge gambit and shows as well a fine application of the most brilliant of all plays, the Vienna Coup. It is Quite rare for one hand to afford the opportunity for two such fine coups, and H. P. Fierheller who held the South hand, is to be complimented upon his handling of a difficult situation.


The bidding, no doubt, was slightly optimistic, in view of South’s club holding, yet the slam try cannot be severely criticized after North’s bid of three hearts. East’s Double of the bid of six spades was a timely warning of two probable spade tricks, and South’s switch to no trump was thus clearly indicated.

The Opening lead was the diamond Knave, and when the Dummy went down the outlook for 11 tricks was extremely bright, but the 12th trick appeared very uncertain. Obviously the  club suit had to be established and the King allowed to make, as it was self-evident that East held a guard spades, Mr. Fierheller went to work on this assumption and took two rounds of diamonds, discarding from the Dummy the club Ace.

The club Queen was then led, which East won with the King. Here East could have defeated the contract by playing the heart Queen, but to East the spade Queen appeared just as promising, and that unfortunate choice was made. South now realized that his one chance for making the Slam was for East to hold both the Queen and Knave of hearts, so the Ace and King of spades were played from the Dummy, then Mr. Fierheller re-entered his own hand with the Ace of hearts and followed with the four winning clubs, on which all the spades in the Dummy hand were discarded. The situation now was:


South now played the diamond Queen, and East was helpless. A very well played hand, indeed.

Today’s Pointer: The term “gambit,” used in Chess, has also its place in the game of Bridge. A gambit may risk additional loss, but if it is the only method of making the contract, it should be offered.

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