Partnership Defense By Steve Becker

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At the outset of play, a defender often finds himself in the dark, trying to guess how to proceed.

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South dealer. East-West vulnerable.

Opening lead — jack of diamonds.

At the outset of play, a defender often finds himself in the dark, trying to guess how to proceed. Once the play begins, however, much of the guesswork can frequently be eliminated, provided the defenders make full use of the lines of communication open to them. Here is a case in point.

South got to four spades as shown and West led his singleton diamond, taken by dummy’s ace.Since it was unlikely that he would ever reach dummy again, South continued with the diamond king and discarded a club.

East in the meantime had followed to the A-K of diamonds with first the seven and then the deuce. West ruffed the second diamond, but was at a loss of what to do next. Forced to lead from one of his kings and influenced by South’s club discard, he shifted to a club.

Declarer took the jack with the queen drew trumps anc conceded two heart tricks to make his contract. Of course, if West had shifted to a heart at trick three, the defense would have collected the A-K of hearts and a heart ruff and West’s king of clubs would eventually have put South down two.

The question, therefore, is whether there was any way for West to know he should shift to a heart at trick three. The answer is yes, but it wasn’t West who was at fault. The blame lay entirely with East, who gave his partner no help whatsoever on the first two tricks.

When the second diamond was led from dummy. East knew full well that his partner would ruff. He should therefore have availed himself of the opportunity to steer West in the right direction by means of a suit preference signal.

Instead of following mechanically with the deuce at trick two. East should have played a much higher card — preferably the queen. West could hardly have mistaken this vociferous signal as anything but a request to shift to the higher-ranking of the two side suits — namely, hearts.

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