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Study those Early Discards by Terence Reese

Source: CAC 1975 Bulletin

April 1975

My advice is to study the early discards and consider this point: From what holding would the defender most readily have made those discards? The answer often will resolve a critical guess.

For example, a defender who holds A-5-3-2 or K-5-3-2 will discard from that suit more readily than if he had held Q-5-3-2 or J-5-3-2.

That will give you a clue in situations of this kind:


  J 7 6  
Q 9 4   A 5 3 2
  K 10 8  


  J 8 6 2  
A 5 3   Q 9 4
  K 10 7  

This is a side suit in a trump contract and declarer needs to establish one fast trick. In (1) East has made two early discards. Conclusion: he is more likely to hold A-x-x-x than Q-x-x-x. In (2) West makes an early discard. Conclusion: he is more likely to have discarded from A-x-x than from Q-x-x.


  A 8
J 9 4   K 7 5 3 2
  Q 10 6  


  K 10 8
A 5 3 2
  J 7 6
  Q 9 4

In (3) East makes two early discards. When you play ace and 8 he follows with 5 and 7. Play him for K-x-x-x-x rather than J-x-x-x-x. In (4) West discards twice. He is more likely to have come down to A-x than to J-x; but if a low card to the king is headed by the ace, be inclined to play East for A-J-x. Such inferences are especially strong when dummy has what may seem to a defender to be an esta-blishable suit, as here:

Dlr: South Vul: None

  10 5 2
K J 6 3
A 7 3
8 6 4
9 3
Q 10 8
10 9 5 4
K J 7 3
  J 7
A 9 5 2
J 8 6
A 10 9 5
  A K Q 8 6 4
7 4
K Q 2
Q 2
North South
1 1NT
3 4

West leads 3 and South ruffs the third round. There is something to be said for leading a heart at once, putting West under some pressure if he holds the ace, but instead the declarer plays four rounds of trumps, discarding a diamond from dummy. (It is good play to keep the heart holding intact.) West throws a club and a diamond, East a club and a heart. After cashing three diamonds, South leads a heart and West plays the 8. South should finesse the jack. Why? Because of East’s heart discard. With A-9-x-x East, expecting the contract to depend on the heart guess, would not think it necessary to keep all four. But with Q-9-x-x he would not let a heart go, in case declarer held A-x. As so often is the case, the discard tells the story.


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