Dummy Reversal by por G.C.H. Fox       

Ruffing in the closed hand is often the hallmark of the mediocre player. There is a quaint fascination for crossing to dummy even at the expense of valuable entry cards, in order to «trump in.» This ill-conceived habit usually results in the loss of trump control. There are, however, occasions when ruffing in the closed hand may be correct tactics. They are:

1. When you are ruffing out a long suit in dummy with a view to establishing one or more low cards in it. This requires a strong suit in declarer’s hand.

2. In desperate situations where your trumps are very poor. Here the purpose is to make trumps by ruffing since you are most unlikely to make them any other way.

3. Reverse dummy play. This is one of the bridge terms which are inclened to scare the average player but actually, it is quite simple.

The principle behind reversing the dummy is that the trumps both in your hand and on the table are strong. This means that you can suit yourself as to whether you draw trumps with dummy’s holding or your own.

Here is an example:

Love-all. Dealer South

West leads the 8. There are ten top tricks and it might seem that the best chance would be to draw trumps and finesse spades twice. After all, the percentage in favour of split honors is quite good. However, there is a safer way. Consider the trumps in each hand. They are sufficiently strong to enable you to draw trumps from either side. Therefore, look upon your hand as dummy and focus your attention on your singleton heart. Assuming you take the first trick with A, lead another heart and ruff. Next cash two top trumps and enter dummy with the 10 to lead another heart which you again ruff. As there is one trump left to draw and you have none, you cross to dummy with the K and lead the Q, discarding a low spade. Another spade can be thrown on the J, after which you take two more tricks in diamonds. You thus make one heart, two ruffs, four trumps, one spade and four diamonds a total of 12 tricks. Had the bidding gone differently, North becoming declarer there is little doubt that the slam would be made. The necessity of ruffing two hearts would be apparent.

The next example is less obvious as the trumps are not divided equally between the two hands.

East-West vulnerable. Dealer South.

Hearts are led against South’s four spade contract. Declarer could see nine certain tricks and decided that the fate of the hand depended on the diamonds. He drew two rounds of trumps and then played the diamonds hoping either that the suit broke 3-3, in which case he could pull the remaining trump and cash the thirteenth diamond. Alternatively that the player who might be short in that suit did not possess the odd trump. In this event the loser could be ruffed in dummy.

Unfortunately the distribution was not as he had hoped and the contract went one down. A better plan would have been to reverse the dummy. The combined trump holding is eight including all the honours. Dummy holds three top trumps and, provided the outstanding ones divide normally (i.e., 3-2) these can be used for drawing purposes. At trick two a low heart is ruffed with the J and a spade returned to the 9. A second heart is ruffed high and dummy re-entered with a trump. A third heart is ruffed with South’s last trump. A diamond is next led to the king and the last trump is drawn with the ace, South discarding a club. The AQ gives declarer his ten tricks. Providing the adverse spades are split 2-2 the contract is certain. If they break 4-1 it will still be made if the diamonds go round three times. The next deal from a duplicate pairs contest illustrates a combination of ruling out a suit with a dummy reversal:

The final contract was six spades and West led the Q. One line of play would be to ruff two hearts on the table, draw trumps and trust to an even break  in diamonds. This is not a gold plan since the even adverse diamonds are more likely to be 4-2 than 3-3, whereas the four outstanding spades are probably 3-1. This will enable dummy to be regarded as the master hand from the point of view of drawing the adverse trumps, whilst declarer’s trumps are used for ruffing out and establishing the clubs.

At the second trick the A is played followed by a low club which is ruffed. Dummy is entered with a trump and another club is ruffed, West throwing a heart. A trump to the table enables South to establish the
remaining clubs by using his last trump. A small diamond to the king permits East’s last spade to be extracted, after which the two set-up clubs are cashed. The only loser is one diamond failure to recognize the possibility of converting dummy into the master hand resulted in the defeat of a grand slam in a heat of
the Daily Telegraph Cup.

Game-all. Dealer South.

West led the J against South’s seven spade contract. Declarer rightly discarded any idea of staking all on the club finesse but still concentrated on stablishing his own hand rather than setting up dummy’s. He won with the ace and started drawing trumps with the KQ. When West showed out he continued hearts, throwing a club from dummy. He then played ace and a low club hoping to ruff out the queen. As will be seen East over-ruffed. The best chance is to win the first trick with the Q, cash two top diamonds and ruff the third with a low trump. It is unlikely that the diamonds will break worse than 4-3. Dummy is entered with the A and the fourth diamond led. When East discards South can afford to ruff low and then cash the AJ. A low club is next led to the ace and the KQ remove the remaining trumps. The last two tricks are taken with the K and K. In the event of East following to the fourth diamond, South would have to ruff high. With the existing spade distribution the contract would fail. Nevertheless, it would be the best chance, as it would only require a normal 3-2 division of the outstanding trumps. The final example has received Its share of publicity for it occurred in the World Cham-pionship Match between .the U.S.A. and Italy in 1951:

The final contract in one room was seven diamonds. The K was led. With only 12 sure tricks the best line of play is to ruff three clubs in the closed hand, relying en dummy’s KQJ to draw the adverse trumps. Having taken the first trick with the A and ruffed a low club, dummy is entered with the J and a second round of trumps taken with the Q. When all follow, another club ruff is taken. A spade to the jack allows the J to be trumped with the A. A heart puts dummy on play to remove the last out-standing trump on which the Q is thrown and South’s spades take the remainder of the tricks. It will be noted that the declarer drew two rounds of trumps. Provided both opponents follow twice there are the necessary number of entries on the table to obtain three club ruffs and still be in a position to draw trumps from the dummy. However, had one opponent fallen out on the second diamond lead, making the distribution 4-1, the reverse dummy plan would have to be abandoned as dummy’s three trumps would be insufficient. In this event there is a second chance for it is possible to squeeze West. The mechanics of squeeze play are outside the scope of this article, but for the benefit of those readers who may like to follow how this squeeze will work, suppose the hand is slightly altered, transfering a diamond from East to West :

The first lead is the K taken by the ace and a club is ruffed. The next two tricks are taken with the QJ, East discarding a club. It is now clear that four rounds of trumps have got to be used to exhaust West. There are two very important cards missing from North-South. One is the Q. the other the K. On the lead West is marked with the former and should he also hold the latter he will be unable to keep it protected when South leads out his winners. South draws all the trumps and follows with four rounds of spades. The position will then be as follows:

When South finally’ leads his 6, West is put into an impossible position. He cannot release the Q without making dummy’s jack good. Nor can be let go his small heart which is preciously guarding his king. As he holds both the cards that matter he is squeezed and must let one or other go.

In considering the principle of reverse the dummy the opportunity usually arises when :

1. Declarer is short in at least one suit.

2 Declarer and dummy between them share a minimum of eight trumps. It is possible with only seven but it is rather desparate.

3. Dummy’s holding is at least three including two honours.

These conditions are not invariable but most hands suitable for dummy reversal will conform to most of them.