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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Break a Rule: Keep a Rule

It’s tough, this game of Bridge. The experts give you rules to follow and then not just let you break them but tell you it’s correct to do so!

Take this situation. You are in 3NT and you have a heart suit of A3 opposite K52. That is always going to give you two tricks, no more no less. The rule, in no-trumps, when that suit is led at trick 1 is “to duck the first round of the suit to break communications between the two defenders.” It may not work and it may prove to be unnecessary but it is a good idea to do so.

Recently, South had the above holding on the following board:

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

 

3Club-small was a bid to check whether South held 3 card spade support. The 3NT answer denied it (as well as denying 4 hearts). West led a heart to their partner’s 10 which held the trick. Back came Heart-smallJ won by the ace. South did well to play Spade-smallA followed by Spade-smallQ but both opponents followed with low cards. So, declarer played a diamond to the king and then the Spade-smallJ which East won as declarer threw a club and West a small diamond. This was the full hand:

 

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

 

East played back their last heart. South won with the king in hand. The only way to reach dummy’s high spades was to play a second diamond to the jack. Declarer cashed their two spade tricks and had 8 tricks in all. He tried a club towards the king losing to West’s ace. West cashed their two remaining hearts giving the defence five tricks in all (3 hearts, one spade and the Club-smallA).

Which was the rule South overlooked…and the one he should have kept at the expense of the one he followed?

It was a very simple one. “If you can count to the number of tricks you need to make your contract, do not put the contract at risk by taking an alternative line.” At the sight of dummy at trick 1, South could see four spade tricks, two in hearts and three in diamonds (yes, there are four diamond tricks but communicating between the two hands might not be easy..anyway, with three diamond tricks, South had 9). Ducking the first round of hearts proved to be an awkward diversion.

Win the first trick with the king in hand. Now play Spade-smallA then Spade-smallQ. When no king appears, cross to dummy with a diamond and force out the Spade-smallK. East plays a second heart won by the ace in dummy. Cash the high spades and then use the Diamond-smallJ to cross back to the South hand to take two more diamond tricks and nine in all.

A diamond return from East when in with the Spade-smallK does not help the defence. Declarer wins in hand, cashes the third diamond and crosses to the Heart-smallA to enjoy the spade tricks in dummy, nine tricks once more.

Ducking at trick 1 took out a valuable entry to dummy which was needed to deal with the awkward suit blockage. The "ducking" rule had to be broken as the rule about taking the number of tricks needed for your contract took precedence.

Broken for a good cause!

Richard Solomon

 

 

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