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You are South as declarer playing teams or rubber bridge. In each case, what is your play strategy?

aaxx

West leads 6. What is your plan?

aaxx

You are declarer in 4 and West leads the 2. What is your plan?

aaxx

You are declarer in 3NT. West leads 5, and East follows with the 10.  What is your plan?

aaxx

You open 1NT and North raises to 3NT. West leads 4. What is your plan?

Answers 

aaxx

You are declarer in 3NT and West leads the 6. How do you plan the play?

A quick tally of the tricks available shows three spades, one heart, one diamond and a club. You thus need only three more diamond tricks to fulfil your contract. Obviously, you can achieve this regardless of whether the diamond finesse works. What is the problem? If the danger suit – clubs -breaks 5-2 then the defenders might be able to take four club tricks together with the diamond king. Clearly, there is no problem if clubs break 4-3. To cater for the 5-2 break, you should rise with the ace at trick one, hoping to block the suit if East started with a doubleton king or queen. While it is true that ducking would work better if West started with both the king and queen of clubs, he is twice as likely to hold either K-10-x-x-x or Q-10-x-x-x as K-Q-x-x-x. This makes the blocking play of rising with the ace a clear favourite.


aaxxYou are declarer in 4 and West leads the 2. How do you plan the play?

It looks all too easy to duck the opening lead in dummy in an effort to win the first trick in hand. Now consider what might happen if West has led a singleton. On a bad day, East would win with the king, return a diamond for his partner to ruff, regain the lead with the ace of spades and give his partner another ruff for a one-trick set. The defenders would have taken the first four tricks and you would be down even with the club finesse right! Stop to count the number of tricks available and you will find that you have one spade for sure, five hearts, two diamonds and two clubs giving you ten tricks and your contract. Ducking the first lead was unnecessary and, in any case, it achieves precisely nothing. Even if West had led away from the king, you would expect to lose a diamond later. Ducking the first trick is a kneejerk reaction and could be fatal.


aaxx

You open 2NT and North raises to 3NT. West leads 5, and East follows with the 10.  What is your plan?

You deduce from the lead and the Rule of Eleven that West started with four or five spades and that East has two spades higher than the five. A count of winners tells you that you can afford to lose a club because with one spade, three hearts and two diamonds you need only three clubs for your contract. The club finesse might work, of course, in which case you will make a load of tricks, but you have to be a bit careful in case it loses. Suppose you win the first spade, lose the club finesse to East and get a spade back. Then, if West had started with five spades, you would go down. The answer is that you have to duck the ten of spades. This way, either East does not have a spade to lead when in with the club or the spade suit breaks 4-3, which is not a problem. Since no switch is dangerous, it would be clear to duck if you had the ace of spades; somehow, holding the king and queen, it seems less obvious.


aaxxYou open 1NT and North raises to 3NT. West leads 4. What is your plan?

If you solved problem 1, you will have probably solved this one too. You can be sure of making four diamond tricks once the ace has gone. Those four tricks, together with two spades, one heart and two clubs, will give you enough to make your contract. The danger, of course, is that hearts might break 5-2 and you lose not only the ace of diamonds but four hearts as well. Do you want to hold up the ace of hearts in case West holds five hearts and East the ace of diamonds?
Think about West’s likely five-card heart suit. He cannot have K-Q-J-x-x or he would have started with the king, a normal ‘top of sequence’ lead, which means that any doubleton for East must include an honour (possibly two honours.) In any case, by playing the ace from dummy at trick one you can guarantee to block the suit if the lead is from a five-card suit — it will not matter who holds the ace of diamonds. If, instead, the hearts break 4-3, the only tricks you can lose are three hearts and a diamond.

All the hands in this issue relate to making the right move at trick one, the time where so many people go wrong