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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

“Man or mouse”?

man.png  or   mouse.png

You cannot defend every hand correctly. So, did West get a poor result on the board below because of a wrong lead, for not being brave enough or from that many times used excuse “bad luck”?

Let’s test your defence first. You are on lead to 3Diamond-small with the following:

Spade-small AJT9762

Heart-small T65

Diamond-small 9

 Club-small 98

and without interference, hear the opposition bid as follows:

            North                                    South

            1NT (15-17)             2NT (weak or strong transfer to a minor)

            3Club-small (forced bid)        3Diamond-small


and your choice is? I would not look beyond the Spade-smallA hoping to give partner a ruff and would then have found that the contract was unbeatable. At the table, West chose the Club-small9 which again gave declarer 9 tricks. To be successful, you had to lead…come on now, not much of a choice left!


North Deals
Both Vul
A Q 8
10 6 2
A 10 6 5 3
A J 10 9 7 6 2
10 6 5
9 8
W   E
4 3
K J 4 2
A 7 5
K Q 7 2
8 5
9 7 3
K Q J 8 4 3
J 4
West North East South
  1 NT Pass 2 NT
Pass 3  Pass 3 
All pass      


Yes, you had to lead a heart and even if declarer guessed to rise with the ace, you can regain the lead with the Spade-smallA to lead a second heart to take two tricks in that suit and one in each other suit to beat the contract by a trick. That would be quite a good result. The Spade-smallA lead loses the ability to lead hearts twice while neither minor lead did or would do anything worthwhile for the defence.

Declarer ducked the Club-small9 to East’s queen. East exited a small trump, won by South in hand. Next came a club to the ace and a third club ruffed high. A second trump gave East the chance to switch to a spade and West to a heart. Declarer had the luxury of being able to finesse and still have two entries ( two out of hearts, spades or trumps) to ruff out East’s high club, draw trump and return to dummy and discard the other heart loser on the established club.

So, maybe you scored +100 for your initial heart lead or was it -110 on any other lead? Should you have been writing down  +170? When South bid 3Diamond-small, they had shown a weak hand with long diamonds. Was West still looking at their hand? If you trusted the opposition, your partner should have a hand similar to the one actually held, roughly a balanced weak no-trump hand.

The saying “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” is not always true. It was quite fortunate that spades made 10 tricks (spades 2-2 and the Heart-smallQ well placed for West) but with average luck, 9 tricks should be possible or even 8, -100 not being too bad if diamonds produced -110. That long spade suit was worth a few tricks even though your high card strength was not great (5!). Notice East should pass 3Spade-small. Partner has almost certainly bid knowing you have what you held!

So, -110 was not a great score?

A poor lead? Maybe.

 “Bad luck”? Perhaps but you cannot always find the right defence.

“Not brave enough? “Probably as the evidence was there for you to put in a bid but you succumbed to the might of a strong no-trump. As you can see, it is not always that mighty. The power of the mighty five count!

Richard Solomon



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