Source: A Defensive Hint from 1936
THIS deal comes from the preliminary heat of the National Pairs in 1936 and was originally written up in the May 1936 issue of Bridge Magazine by Abe Wolfers, a prominent player of the time, who won the Gold Cup in 1935 with his brother Lionel, and partnered Terence Reese in some of the early Camrose matches. Alas, he does not tell us the names of the players involved on this deal, especially East, whose imaginative defence caught his eye that day. Abe describes the bidding as a mixture of approach-forcing and direct methods, ‘these days one might find other ways to describe it (apart from the 1 bid, which is perfect), but the contract arrived at was a decent one, and one which we would all be happy to reach.
The lead was the jack of spades, won by declarer in hand, A club to the ace, and a second club to declarer’s king was followed by a club ruff in dummy with the queen. Haw would you defend with the East cards? East deduced that declarer’s trumps must be sufficiently good to withstand being over-ruffed with the ace without establishing a trick for West, since otherwise he might have tried to ruff this club with the eight.
Therefore he reasoned that over-ruffing would make life too easy for declarer. He considered the options declarer had at this point, assuming he was allowed to hold the trick. This is how Abe describes the thought processes of East for us:
Obviously, then, ruminated East, South has a difficult guess if I allow him to win this trick. He will have to decide between (a) the dangerous play of the eight of Hearts which will lose two tricks if West has the Ace for he would make his Queen of Clubs at once. or (b) the alternative line of playing off his King and Queen of Spades to discard his losing Club on the latter. The play of the eight of Hearts will succeed because I will be thrown with the lead: my best defence would be to return a Spade which Dummy will win with the Queen. Dummy will play the small Spade for South to ruff: South will then clear our trumps re-enter dummy with Ace of Diamonds and get rid of his losing Club on the King of Spades.
But, if South decides to play his King and Queen of Spades at once, my partner will ruff the Queen and so defeat she contract. Now, can I not persuade South that this fine of play will be safe? If I can convince him that I had originally only four Spades, he will readily deduce that West had three. So be it, I must pretend to be avoiding a squeeze on Spades and Diamonds and discard the two of Hearts to this trick.
The analysis is not perfect since we can see that there cannot be a squeeze on East as dummy will be discarding first. Also, even if declarer follows the line of playing on trumps (assuming you haven’t under-ruffed), if you duck this first trump, he will need to play a low trump on the second round to your ace to avoid a promotion of partner’s nine. Nevertheless, the point about avoiding a spade discard is valid and very well deduced by East. It looks like the one card that you can easily afford, but it will tip declarer off about the spade distribution, and he may instead decide to play you for the ace of trumps.
The event was won that year by G.S. Digby and Lord R.S. Smith of Marlow (a surgeon) who played for the house of Lords in a number of Lords vs Commons matches, and once operated on Maurice Harrison-Gray, removing 33 gall stones. Allegedly Lord Smith commented that it was enough for a small slam in no-trumps!
Avoid discards that tip declarer of to the distribution of the suits.