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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Careful or Careless?

When suits break evenly, playing a contract is relatively easy. There is usually more than one path to success even if your path is not the one taken by the experts. Yet, the mark of a good Bridge player is a careful Bridge player. Are you aiming to be a good player..well, even just a little better Bridge player? Then, as a good boy scout would say: “be prepared.” Careful.

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



“Thanks. Partner, for that lovely dummy” thought South at the sight of the two top diamonds and four lovely trumps. “Too lovely, really. If the suits break favourably, we are going to make all 13 tricks.” So, South ruffed the opening spade lead, drew trumps and laid down Heart-smallA…and when East discarded, 13 tricks became not 12 nor even 11 but 10. Careless.

What if? What could go wrong? A 4-0 trump break would be annoying but would not really be terminal on this deal. Say hearts broke badly? You could/might be able to cope with a 4-1 break with a bit of care. What about a 5-0 break? Surely not today? That would take a bit more care.

Scouts .jpg.gif

Yet, with West having seven spades, the odds of a 5-0 heart break while still unlikely had shortened considerably. The important thing to consider is that it is much more likely for West to have five hearts than East. Seven spades and five hearts? That’s a real nightmarish shape if you are playing in clubs. Assuming West is more likely to have long hearts than East (vacant spaces etc), we have the luxury of being able to lead hearts twice from dummy so that if East ruffed either the first or second heart lead, they would be ruffing " thin air"….and not ruffing either of South’s high hearts.


So, at trick 2, play a diamond to dummy and lead a heart. If East follows, win and do the same again, diamond to dummy and then another heart.

On the above lay-out, East might ruff the first trump and lead their second small trump. Win and draw the remaining trump finishing in the South hand. Now, two low hearts can be ruffed in dummy and the Heart-smallAK will draw the remaining two hearts from West allowing declarer to make 6.

If East returns a spade after ruffing, declarer can ruff and play a diamond to dummy to play a second heart. If East ruffs a second time and plays a third spade, South will only need one ruff in dummy to set up their 6th heart…making 11 tricks.

If East does not ruff at all, then declarer will score two red AKs, two high ruffs in dummy and five trumps in their own hand for a minimum 11 tricks.

“Why did you take so long to play to trick 2” asked North who had gone to get a coffee after laying down dummy and who got to see the play to trick 2 some two minutes later?

“Just being careful… in case of bad breaks” came the reply with a warm glow feeling inside.

Richard Solomon

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