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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

 

giving a helping hand.

Signalling for Success.

Whatever methods you normally use to exchange information to partner, there are times when clear suit preference signals are required. For many pairs, this occurs when one player leads an ace or a king and a singleton comes down in dummy. Yet, there are other situations where a clear suit preference signal is required…and no singleton appears in dummy.

In one of the two following boards, the signal was nice to do but was not needed though in the other it was crucial.

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

 

After you opened 3Spade-smallas West, North called 4Heart-small. South asked for key-cards, got the response and bid 6Heart-small. While wondering how your partner would ever find a diamond lead at trick 1, his opening lead of the Spade-smallA hit the table at trick 1. No time to wonder what the Blackwood response meant, it is time for you to follow suit. Which card do you play at trick 1?

If you think that was peculiar, then there is something very macabre about this next hand.  You are sitting East with the following:

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

 

Your 2Spade-small was natural and while you sat there wishing your spade suit contained the jack as well, the next best thing happened. Partner led that card at trick 1. Which card are you going to play to trick 1?

There are times when a high card played in response to partner’s ace lead will say “please switch” and a local card is encouraging partner to continue that suit. However, there are other times, like in our two examples where a high card played by leader’s partner asks for the higher of the other (non-trump) suits and a low card asks for the lower. A middle card in a suit contract means one of no preference, lead a trump, or continue the suit led….whichever you think is the most appropriate, partner! In no-trumps, a middle card might indicate the middle suit.

When throwing a high card, it must only be the highest you can afford to throw.

So, in our first example, West’s Spade-smallQ should be played saying or just about begging for a diamond switch

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

 

West got their wish and the contract was easily, comfortably, beaten by one trick. While the diamond loser was never disappearing, let’s say that North’s shape was one card different: 1714 with a singleton diamond and spade. Now, if East does anything other than switch to a diamond, the contract makes. West did not know North’s shape and could afford to throw that Spade-smallQ to be sure of getting the right card played at trick 2 to beat  the contract.

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

 

East does not know whether West had led from J singleton or J doubleton. If it is a doubleton, then non  spade honour will do…but if a singleton, then West’s next card needs to be a club. Looking at that dummy, that might not appealo to West..unless East plays their lowest spade, Spade-small3 at trick one.A heart switch would spell disaster for the defence.

When this board was played recently, the honour cards were distributed slightly differently..and the heart switch was required (East had the Heart-smallA and not the Club-smallA ). With the Club-smallA in dummy, this was more obvious. In our example, it was not obvious at all to West which card to play at trick 2. Help partner as much as you can.

As you can see, there is only one sequence of cards to beat 3NT. Fortunately for East-West, South was declarer. I imagine if North had been declarer after the same kind of sequence, East needs to lead Spade-small3 at trick 1. Obvious?

Richard Solomon

       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

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