Promoting Tricks in Defence Part II by Terence Reese

Terence Reese
Terence Reese

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Preserving a Tenace Position

The defensive play required in the following hand proved a blind spot for most players.

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

West leads 3 against Three No-Trumps. South wins and finesses J, losing to East’s Queen. As South has bid Spades, East can see little future in this suit and it is obvious that the setting tricks can come only from Clubs. Most players thought they were rising to the occasion when they played back Q. However, this is not good enough, for as the cards lie South has a second stop after this play. The only return to establish three certain tricks in Clubs is the low one; then, when West wins with A, he leads a second Club and East makes three tricks to set the contract.

Second Hand Low or High

One of the most difficult decisions which a defender has constantly to make is when declarer leads low to a suit in dummy headed by K Q or K J, and the player underneath the dummy has the Ace. The defender has to gauge whether declarer has led a singleton or not; and also whether, if the lead is a singleton, it is better to go in with the Ace or hold it up. Sometimes it is almost impossible for a defender to judge, especially if the play is made early on before the defenders have a count of the hand. For this reason a declarer with Kjxxx in dummy and a doubleton or singleton in his own hand should play the suit at the first opportunity before the defenders can be sure whether it is better to play the Ace or not

A defender cannot do the right thing every time in these positions, but it is probably correct to say that when in doubt it is better to play low; for even when the lead is a singleton, it is often a mistake to play the Ace. This hand is rather a striking example:

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

The bidding has gone:

South   North
1   2
2NT   4

The J is led, and if you look at the hand you will see that East can beat the contract only by not playing his A at the first trick. East can see that if he puts on A, declarer’s K Q will provide discards for two losing Clubs, so by giving up a Diamond the defenders gain two tricks in Clubs.

Playing Partner for a Ruff

Now we come to the first of a series of examples in which play slightly outside the usual is needed to win extra tricks in the trump suit. Most players can see ahead when the want to ruff themselves, but they tend to miss chances of giving partner a ruff:

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

The bidding has gone:

South   North
1   2
3   3

West leads Q and East wins with the Ace. What should he play back? The contract can be defeated only if West has a trump trick. West can hardly have a trick in Spades as well as a trick in trumps; but there is a good chance that a second trick may be won by means of a Club ruff. Remember that South has raised Clubs; West is not likely to have a singleton Club, for with a singleton and a high trump he would have led the singleton. West has a doubleton Club, as it is reasonable to suppose, the hand is defeated by the return of a low Club at the second trick.