When toCover Honours

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One of the most vexing problems for intermediate to advanced players is when to cover honours. When J is led from dummy, should you cover with the king?

By Paul Lavings
On 21 October, 2012 At 16:31

Category : Advanced @en, Advanced 4, Intermediate @en

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Paul Lavings
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Paul Lavings
Paul Lavings Bridge Books & Supplies

One of the most vexing problems for intermediate to advanced players is when to cover honours. When J is led from
dummy, should you cover with the king?

Dummy
J76           You

            K 3 2

The answer is yes, you should. You are hoping to promote an honour in your partner’s hand:

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

Those familiar with Errol Flynn, the famous Australian actor, may recall the battle scenes from “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, and “They Died with Their Boots On” (General Custer’s life). Seconds from departing this life, a soldier gathers all his remaining strength, aims his gun, and takes one of the enemy with him to the after-life, his existence now justified. This is how the king feels in the two suit combinations above. If the defender ducks, the king falls for nought two rounds
later, but covering with the king creates an extra trick for your side.
I vividly remember coming back to the table in a teams match, where opponents had made three tricks in this suit to score up 3NT:

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

The ten was led, low, low, queen, and declarer returned to hand to play up to dummy again. When my ace popped, taking no enemy soldier with it, declarer had three tricks in the suit. My learned teammate, Max Hitter, asked, “When the ten was led, was the ace played on it?”. Indeed, had I played my ace on the ten, it would have been our side to take three tricks in the suit. An invaluable lesson.
Look how important it is to get value for your honour in these three combinations:

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

If you cover the ten with your honour, your side gains an extra trick. In the example at the start, where you sit over Jxx
with Kxx, there are two situations where you might not cover. If declarer has six cards in the suit, you wouldn’t cover for fear of crashing partner’s queen or ace. Partner has nothing to promote. The second situation is where there is no entry back to dummy, so you hope partner has the queen:

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

An important principle in bridge is – COVER THE SECOND OF TOUCHING HONOURS.
Look at these cases:

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

In the first case, if the jack is covered, then the defence makes only one trick in the suit. If West ducks the jack, the defence will make two tricks in the suit if declarer plays the suit again. By ducking on the first round you correct the timing, and your side takes an extra trick.
In the second case, the defence makes no tricks if the king covers the first honour from the queen-jack sequence.
Declarer next finesses partner’s ten and takes all four tricks in the suit. If West doesn’t cover, the defence will make a trick if declarer plays the suit again.
In the third case, the defence has no chance if the jack is covered, even with a doubleton honour. If West ducks the jack, declarer has to guess whether to lead the 10 or low on the next round of the suit.
So what do you do when you hold Qx or Qxx of trumps, with Axx or Axxx in dummy, and declarer pokes the jack at you? You should duck. Surely declarer has the ten, and the jack is the first of touching honours. The suit could well be:

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

Playingin tempo is half the battle, and by familiarising yourself with the basic principles you become a much tougher opponent, and a better player and partner.

Paul Lavings
Paul Lavings Bridge Books & Supplies

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