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Play, Defence even Bid for Newer Players


One of the aims of bidding, the most important aim, is to reach the right contract, to decide whether one’s side is likely to make game, maybe even slam, or else rest in a part-score, or maybe even defend.

However, sometimes we must reach the right contract played by the right declarer. In such situations, the “right declarer” is often the declarer with a high card in a danger suit. It is less important if that high card is the ace as that card will win a trick no matter whether it is in declarer’s hand or in dummy but when that high card is the king or queen, it can be critical for one hand to be declarer and the other dummy. Watch:

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

 What went wrong

East-West were playing  a system where a 1NT rebid showed 15-17 high card points, just what East had. West had no problems in raising to 3NT with the partnership having 29hcp and high cards in every suit. Surely that would be enough to make 3NT?

Alas not. Very wisely, South decided not to lead their own long suit, clubs. Unless their partner had a very strong holding in this suit as well (rather unlikely), there was no prospect in this suit for the defence since South was almost guaranteed not to win the lead in any other suit… and the suit holding was too poor. So, South would try to help their partner by leading the suit their partner had called, spades. With three small spades, the lead of the highest (top of a sequence), Spade-small10, would be a good start.

Well, not such a good start for East! As you can see, the defence can now take the first five tricks, with the Spade-smallK not scoring a trick. North will then cash the Diamond-smallA…down two. Enough high card points but there was a big danger which could have been avoided.


The solution

Although East had the points to bid 1NT, their lack of a hold in the spade suit was ominous. Even without the spade bid by North, this was a dangerous bid but East would anticipate a spade lead were they to declare a no-trump contract. East should have looked for an alternative bid to 1NT which would show their strength but could allow the player with a hold in the spade suit to be declarer. That bid here was 3Club-small, the jump showing a strong hand. That would give West an easy second bid as in the sequence below:





                                        1Diamond-small             Pass

  1Heart-small                1Spade-small         3Club-small             Pass

  3NT           All Pass

The right declarer

Look at the difference. If North leads a spade, any spade, West will win a trick with the Spade-smallK. Say that happens at trick one (small to the Spade-small9 and king). West will realise that they must try to come to 9 tricks before losing the lead because if the defence gain the lead, they will take at least 4 spade tricks (in this case 4) along with the Diamond-smallA….down 1. West knows North has at least five spades for their overcall.

So, can West come to 9 tricks without losing the lead? The answer is “yes” as long as they leave diamonds alone. They can take four club and four heart tricks along with the spade trick they already have. You must play the high cards in the right order…Heart-smallAQ then a club to your ace, the other two heart tricks and then the other three club tricks. That’s 9 before you touch diamonds.

Say North did not lead a spade. Then, your 9th trick (after 4 in hearts and in clubs) must come from diamonds, not the Spade-smallK. So, you have to play a diamond and trust that North has the ace (they did overcall). Now, North can only cash one spade trick before giving you the lead back.


What a difference, all because one player is declarer and not the other. Sometimes you have to bid no-trumps without a hold in a suit but you should not do so when the opposition have bid that suit. It is called “right siding a contract” and will usually give the declaring side a better score as the above board demonstrated.

Richard Solomon


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