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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players


Sorry, no great end-play to make an impossible slam this week. This is routine every day what went right or in this case wrong defending a part-score. The first question is after an illuminating sequence of:

West          North         East            South


Pass            2Spade-small               All Pass

what do you lead from:

Spade-small AJ7

Heart-small Q87

Diamond-small J73

Club-small AT98

The first thing to do is eliminate both black suits, a trump for obvious reasons and a club because you neither want to lead nor under-lead a suit headed by the ace which has so much potential for extra tricks. So, which red suit? Leading from Jxx is really ugly. Therefore, for me, the only lead is a small heart..but West chose a diamond, the 7. Let’s see what happened.


South Deals
E-W Vul
6 5 2
10 9 5
Q 8 4
K Q 3 2
A J 7
Q 8 7
J 7 3
A 10 9 8
W   E
Q 9
J 6 4 3
A 10 9 6 5
6 5
K 10 8 4 3
A K 2
K 2
J 7 4


East was not sure about the opening lead and rose with the ace to continue the suit. South won with the king and played a low club won in dummy. The Diamond-smallQ was played to dispose of the losing heart in declarer’s hand and was followed by a low spade from dummy to the 9, 10 and West’s jack. The Club-smallA and another club, ruffed, would now have saved the overtrick but West exited tamely with a heart. South took advantage of the soft defence by winning and leading Spade-smallK (“where there’s a 9, there’s a (doubleton) queen”) and made an overtrick, two tricks more than he should have done.

What went wrong for the defence? As it happened, a diamond lead was not critical though the choice of the 7 gave East a problem. It could have been a singleton lead. We lead “low from an honour”. What do we mean by an honour? Perhaps in this situation we mean AKQ ignoring the jack because we avoid leading away from the jack, if we can. So maybe West was correct to lead the 7 and East just has to guess that the lead maybe a doubleton, even from three cards and therefore playing the Diamond-small9 at trick one might be best. Oh, next time, lead a low heart!

Had the Diamond-small9 been played, no damage to the defence would have occurred. No doubt, declarer would still have played a club to dummy with a spade following in the same fashion as above. To beat the contract now, West must lead Club-smallA and give East a ruff. (The importance of East giving count to their partner is critical. Playing natural count, East plays high, low to show a doubleton and the ruff can be given.)What if South had 6 spades? Bad luck, perhaps, but if South had six spades headed by the KQ, they might have played low to the king on the first round. 

After the club ruff, the defence can then attack hearts and get their trick there along with two trumps, the minor aces as well as the club ruff, one down. The same six tricks are available after a heart lead.

2Spade-small making 3…a bottom for the defence and Deal Master Pro told them they could make 9 tricks in diamonds, just to rub the salt in! Bidding over 2Spade-small was very risky. You cannot get a top off every board. Sound defence should ensure you do not get a bottom.

Richard Solomon



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