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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players


So, Christmas is a time for giving (if you are lucky, receiving too)…presents, of course! Yet, one form of “present” should be “given” all year round from one defender to another, “present count”. Failure to appreciate the situation in the suit led, by the player on lead, gave the declarer a nice New Year’s present recently, a making contract and a top score to go with it!

“Present Count” is given by the partner of the player on lead, should they win the opening lead, and then return the suit. It can also be given by that defender later in the play should the lead be lost by the defence at trick one.

If West led a low heart to East’s ace and East held originally a 3 card suit, they return the higher of the two remaining cards (effectively..high then low with a doubleton). From an original 4 or 5 card suit, East would return the original fourth highest, which should enable their partner to interpret the lie of the suit round the table. So to the hands:

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


Playing 5 card majors, South opened 1Club-small and rebid 1NT, 15-17 balanced. Both North, then South, slightly upgraded their hands (both holding a potentially useful “10”) and game was reached.

This game should always be defeated, either on an initial heart lead from West or on a low heart switch from East when in with the Diamond-smallA had any other suit been led at trick 1.

Our West led Heart-small6 at trick 1 to East’s king. Back came Heart-small9, the correct card from East. Declarer covered with Heart-small10 with the trick being won by West’s jack. West then erred by laying down their ace, hoping to see the queen fall from declarer’s hand. No such luck…and the declarer soon wrapped up 9 tricks.

It was relatively easy for West to work out the true situation as they held Heart-small8. They should have recognized that Heart-small9 could not be from either a sequence or from an original four card holding. East either held originally a doubleton or a 3 card suit (just about guaranteed as a 3 card suit as if East had only 2 hearts, that would give South 5, inconsistent with the bidding). That 9 “present count” told it all.

West needed to switch and be patient. The logical safe switch would be the Club-smallQ. Since the declarer did not have enough tricks without playing diamonds, East could win and play their third heart and with West having Heart-smallA8 over declarer’s Q7, the defence must take four heart tricks and the Diamond-smallA….thanks to “present count”, a good present to be given!

presents 1.png  presents 2.png  presents 3.png heart 9.png

                                                          "present" count

Richard Solomon



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