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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Make Them Pay.

They have stolen your contract. There’s a slam to be bid and made your way but you decided to take the money off them at the five level. The vulnerability is in their favour but you were never going to bid the slam any way. It’s time to show them that sometimes the vulnerability does not matter. They have overstepped the mark! Let’s get 800 or more!

You are West as this auction unfolds:

West          North                   East            South

1Heart-small              2Heart-small 1                         3Spade-small2                  4Spade-small

5Heart-small              5Spade-small                      Pass            Pass

X                 All Pass

Spade-small and a minor, 10+ hcp (5-5 style)

2 game values, singleton or void spade

You hold:

Spade-small AQ2


Diamond-small 982

Club-small A7

With what would you start?

There is an awful lot of points in this pack…but perhaps South does not have too many of them, assuming your partner has their share. In such a situation, there is a good case in leading trumps as the only way they can score lots of tricks is through either ruffing or running North’s second suit. Yet, your own trump holding may make it unwise to lead more than one round.

If you are not going to lead a trump, try your own suit, hearts. At one table, West started off with a speculative Club-smallA, perhaps looking for a ruff. The sight of dummy told West that was not such a good idea:

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


West continued with Heart-smallA and a diamond to East’s king, to be followed by Heart-smallK. Declarer ruffed in dummy but was rather stuck there. He tried Spade-smallK which was followed by a second diamond again ruffed. However, declarer could now play Club-smallK and a third club ruffed and over-ruffed…and with two trumps still in dummy, the Spade-small2 could be drawn and the remaining clubs enjoyed. The defence took two trumps and one trick in each side-suit….+500 but no compensation for the missed 650 or 680, as the form of the game was Pairs.

West might have guessed the Club-smallA was not a good start. Either dummy has a long suit of clubs or else would be very short in that suit. West was only ever going to make two trumps, no matter where the Spade-smallK was. Time for watching declarer struggle….

Lead Heart-smallA with East suggesting a diamond switch by playing Heart-smallT, a high heart asking for the higher of the minor suits,  with that heart singleton in dummy. A diamond is followed by Heart-smallK with South very much in trouble. The Spade-smallK is played and a further red card is played by West. Another ruff but that dummy hand is running out of trumps…and no-one has yet played clubs. Say declarer plays Spade-smallJ. The play of  another red card leaves declarer in dummy, forced to lead away from the club suit. South would then be regretting their 4Spade-small bid. At the very least one extra club will be added to the defence’s tally…+800 and when you find that few had bid the slam, your score will look a lot better.

 money bag.png

Normal lead:

“Good money” indeed.

There are times when looking for a ruff is a good idea but generally not when a two-suited Michael’s bid has been made by the declaring side. The simple technique of forcing the hand with the long trumps (dummy) would have worked much better. They would soon be very short of trumps as you have seen.  Nothing fancy….make them pay.

Richard Solomon



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