Use the Clues from the Bidding by J. Pottage

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If you have ever wondered how good players manage to get their guesses right rather more than half the time, now you know. They do not play blindly but use the clues from the bidding.

Why you Still Lose at bridge
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Source: Mr Bridge

In many contracts, you face a guess as declarer. Sometimes you know little and must rely on simple odds. These days, this is rarely the case. People are getting busier and busier in the bidding. While this makes it harder for you to find the right contract, what they did or did not bid often helps you in the play.

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You are South in 3NT. West leads the spade ten and you lose four tricks when East has A-K-Q-x. West shifts to a diamond. If the bidding tells you nothing – say you dealt, opened 1NT and received a raise to 3NT – you will no doubt take the club finesse and make nine tricks if East holds the king. You hope the full layout is like this:

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Now, suppose I say that you opened 1NT in second seat. In this case, East would hardly pass as dealer with 12 points. You therefore put West with the king of clubs and play to drop it singleton. Although the chance of success would be low, some chance is better than none. You hope the deal looks something like this:

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More commonly a positive action by an opponent is what gives you a clue.

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You are in 3NT once more. West leads the spade jack and you hold up the ace until the third round (all follow). If the opponents never bid, you may well place West with long spades and take the diamond finesse into what you think is the safe East hand. The full deal could be like this:

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It does not matter that the diamond finesse loses. East has no more spades and you make nine tricks. You would go down if you took the club finesse. Now, if I tell you that East overcalled 1, you put the long spades on your right. In this case, you cross to dummy and finesse in clubs instead. You are catering for a layout like this:

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You do not much mind that the club finesse loses. This time West has no more spades. Again, you make the contract in comfort. Now you would go down if you finessed West for the king of diamonds.

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You are in 6. West leads the heart queen to your ace. The key thing here is not to lose two trumps if someone has A-J-x. Suppose first that West opened 3. With long hearts on your left, you put the spade length on your right and lead to the queen:

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Now, suppose East opened 3. This makes West favourite for the long spades and you lead the king. In this scenario, the full layout would more likely be as follows:

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You are in 4. West leads a low heart. East wins the first two tricks with the king and ace of hearts before switching to a low club. You must guess whether to put up the king, playing East for the ace, or to try the jack, playing East for the queen. If East-West never bid, you would try the jack of clubs. For one thing, East’s silence in the bidding (despite holding seven points in hearts) slightly raises the chance that West holds the club ace. For another, West might have led a club without the ace. The other hands could be:

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Now, if I tell you that East opened 1 or 1NT, you need to reassess. East surely needs the ace of clubs to open, so you go up with the king. The full layout (with the 1 opening) could be:

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At times, the bidding alone does not resolve a guess. You must dig deeper.

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You are in 4 after West opened 1NT (12-14). West leads the  A-K-Q and you ruff the third round. You still have a club to lose and must find the queen of spades. You do not know yet who holds the queen of spades. To find out, you knock out the ace of clubs. If West has it, this is thirteen points accounted for and East must hold the missing queens:

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If East has the club ace, West will need the queens to have enough points:

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If you have ever wondered how good players manage to get their guesses right rather more than half the time, now you know. They do not play blindly but use the clues from the bidding.

 

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