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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

COMBATTING THE JACK

We learn pretty early on that “third player plays high.” That means, simplistically, that when your partner leads a low(ish) card, you will play a high card to either win the trick or force an even higher card out of declarer’s hand.

West (on lead)       North (dummy)                  East (you)

Heart-small 4                              Heart-small 973                                     Heart-small K86

Assuming you are defending a suit contract (though with the above holding, the same would apply in no trumps), with the above situation, you play Heart-smallK knowing that you are sacrificing your king as declarer will hold the ace. Your partner would never under-lead the ace. It’s a partnership game and West will have very likely the queen or the jack.

We know there are times when the above is not true.

  West (on lead)     North (dummy)                  East (you)

Heart-small7                              Heart-small AJ1095                              Heart-small Q862

Again a suit contract and you can tell from partner’s lead that it is from a shortage. If declarer plays the Heart-smallJ from dummy, do not be fooled into parting with your queen. Play low. Make declarer work to force out your queen.

Dummy need not always pose such a threat in the suit led though nevertheless, you should think twice before playing high:

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

 

1NT rebid showed 15-17 hcp. Partner led the Heart-small4 and without much thought, declarer called for a low heart from dummy. Here’s hoping that you gave a little thought to which card you would play.

There is a chance that partner has under-led HAQ, or is there? There are 12 high card points in dummy, 10 in your hand and at least 15 in declarer’s. Even if South had “cheated one hcp”, the maths does not add up. 12+10+14= 36 and you are giving partner 6? Even 4 is very unlikely as South looks like an honest fellow and will have his 15. Think again!

You just know what will happen if you play the king. The ace will win and the jack will provide a second stop in the suit for declarer. If declarer holds AQx, ATx or AT doubleton, it does not matter which card you play….but sometimes declarer does not hold the 10:

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

 

You were dealt the Heart-small9 for a purpose. Play it and you will find, much to your surprise that your 9 wins the trick. When you have recovered from your surprise, make sure you play the Heart-smallK on the second round or else you will block the suit.

All that remains is to make sure your side wins the lead before declarer can get 9 tricks. You will need to find 3 discards on the run of the diamonds but three spades or two and a club can be jettisoned safely. Declarer finesses your Club-smallK but has only taken one heart, four diamonds and two club tricks before surrendering the lead to you.Your partner will be delighted when you play your small heart.

“Good lead, partner” you commented after beating the contract by one trick. Here’s hoping your partner recognised your good play, too.

“Third player plays high, except when it may gain from not doing so.”   

Richard Solomon

 

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