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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

The Singleton That Isn’t…

…or not where the defender thinks it is. It is a common plan when in a suit contract to win the opening lead and play immediately a singleton towards dummy’s  king or king, queen in a suit with the intention of getting some immediate discards. If the defender chooses to take their ace, they then go looking for side-suit winners to cash before you regain the lead to take your discards.

That was declarer’s intention on the following board….with one important difference. They did not have a singleton in the suit led! Yet, someone else at the table did!

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


North would not have enjoyed the jump to 4Heart-small nor South the singleton trump that was soon to appear. It would be quite normal for West to start off with the Diamond-smallA hoping to give their partner a ruff. That defensive tactic would have been very successful here as long as East returned a club at trick 3.

Playing the suit before the opposition do

However, West tried the effect at trick 1 of the Spade-small8 which went round to South’s Spade-small9. At trick 2, South did what West should have done and what East would have done when they got in with the Heart-smallK. South played Diamond-smallJ which West won with their ace. What now?

If anything was going to disappear on that Diamond-smallK, it looked to West that it had to be a club. So, a club to the 10 which South did well to let East win. East continued clubs but was now powerless to request the diamond ruff which East needed so badly. After the Club-small10 scored, East continued clubs won by the ace. Declarer played Heart-smallA followed by Heart-smallQ. East could only win and play a third club with declarer ruffing and drawing trumps to claim 10 tricks.

Playing your singleton whether it is one carded or longer

Once West had not made a fairly standard lead on this board, they were in trouble as long as declarer played their “long singleton" at trick 2. South did not know whether West held six diamonds or seven. The play of the diamond at trick 2 cast a big shadow over where was the remaining diamond that West could not see. It was a wise precaution of South which combined with a good duck of the club, enabled the game to be made.

So watch out for opportunities to play your “singleton” at trick 2, even if it is more than a one card suit!

Richard Solomon

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