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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

Signalling and Counting

One of the advantages of being a defender is that you have someone else at the bridge table on your side, with the same aims as you have and someone who is taking an active part in the play of the hand. So, even though you cannot talk to that person, communicate in the ways which the rules of bridge allow. Signal to each other to try to achieve the best defence. Poor signalling contributed to almost all defenders failing to beat the following contract.

You have led the Club-smallA against the following 4Heart-small contract and playing “low for like” in response to the lead of an ace, see the Club-small5 played by your partner and Club-small3 by the declarer.

North Deals
None Vul
J 9 8 7
A K Q J
10 9 7 4 2
A Q 3 2
10 8
9 7 5 3
A K 8
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
You Dummy    
  1  Pass 1 
Pass 1  Pass 4 
All pass      

 

Plan the defence including your play to trick 2.

While you muse over that, when was the last time you tried as a defender to imagine what declarer’s hand was like, not just the high card points but the shape of the hand? It’s amazing that if you try from the evidence you have from the bidding and from the play so far what conclusions you can sometimes draw.   

If the answer to the last question is “never”, then why not give it a go here? It will not always help but it might.

What has declarer got?

South’s jump to 4Heart-small would normally be on a 7 card suit, sometimes 6 card, rarely 8+ cards. You have seen South follow to the first trick so that they have at least one club. Had South 4 spades, they may (not guaranteed) have jumped in spades. So, we could guess South has got three spades and a couple more cards in clubs or diamonds. Does that help?  More minor cards would not alter our conclusion.

Just as a declarer should make an early plan, so too can a defender based on the information available. To beat or even restrict South’s overtricks, the defence needs a trick or two more in the black suits. Maybe your partner has a trump trick, maybe not.

A Plan

What about trying to take two tricks in each black suit? Seems a good plan but how are we going to take two spade tricks? What is certain is that diamonds can be written off one’s list of trick taking suits. Did we look at which card our partner played to trick 1? Sorry... too many questions!

If the answer was “yes”, then we will know we have to lead a low club at trick 2 as partner encouraged (“low I like”). There is nothing lost in doing so if South only started with one club. Say partner had a doubleton small club (Club-small6 and Club-small5) and wanted you to play your two top clubs and give them a third round ruff?

Then the Club-smallQ will score in declarer’s hand and you have probably messed up the defence…again! That gives South 7 hearts and 3 clubs. It’s certainly possible. What you must not do as happened at several tables is cash your Club-smallK and then exit a passive red card, probably a diamond, or even continue a third round of clubs. Even cashing the Spade-smallA after scoring your second club trick would be preferable to those plays, as you were still on track to beat the contract:

North Deals
None Vul
J 9 8 7
A K Q J
10 9 7 4 2
A Q 3 2
10 8
9 7 5 3
A K 8
 
N
W   E
S
 
5 4
J 9 5 2
10 6 4 2
Q 6 5
 
K 10 6
A K Q 7 6 4 3
8
J 3
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
Pass 1  Pass 4 
All pass      

 

Ironically, against a thinking declarer, the underlead of the club at trick 2 is safer than you might think. If South had Club-smallQJ3, they should throw either honour to put the defence off the scent of a club ruff, a fairly standard false-card. Perhaps South should have done that here as a 4-2 club break would still beat 4Heart-small, assuming Spade-smallA was cashed first, even had the trumps broken 3-3. (South’s trumps were not good enough to sustain a third round ruff (Say East held Club-smallQx) and overruff by South.

Keep "talking"

East held a trump trick. That was why cashing the Spade-smallA works. If South’s trumps were solid, the club had to be underled at trick 2. Two clubs, two spades and a spade ruff. A good reward for accurate signalling and just a little thought about the shape of declarer’s hand. We could not tell the exact shape this time but counting out declarer’s hand and a look at dummy  alerted us to good defence.

“Let’s keep “talking” partner, or signalling, while we are defending. We need to keep watching too!"

Richard Solomon

 

 

 

 

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