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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

TOUGH DEFENCE.

We could twist those above two words around and insert the word “is” because “Defence is tough.” Here’s a hand to prove the point though in many cases, we could expand on the phrase and say “Defence is tough but not impossible”.

A question for you as you follow to four rounds of trumps. From a defensive perspective, which player, your partner or declarer, do you presume does not have the two missing hearts?

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

 

If you do not like your 2Spade-small bid which shows 5 hearts and a 5 card minor, then you will have to overcall 2Heart-small. 3Club-small was a request to play in your minor but South would have none of that and bid directly to game.

You lead Club-smallK on which your partner plays Club-small2 (showing an odd number of clubs) and declarer Club-small6. You know declarer has more clubs and therefore find the good switch of the Spade-small10. Declarer plays the top four spades, and two more spades(your partner had 4 spades headed by Spade-small5..good for other card games but not Bridge!). So, let’s answer that question above because it must help us with our discards.

The answer, of course, is South. If South has Heart-smallK5, that is really bad news for the defence in two ways. Firstly, you could have given partner a ruff at trick 2 (no-one, not even the most result-merchant minded player, would have led a heart at trick 1!). Secondly, your heart suit is an open book and declarer will have 6 spades, 3 hearts and presumably at least one top trick in diamonds. No hope for the defence. Thus, the missing hearts are split 1-1 or your partner has them both.

Thus, you can discard three hearts on the 3rd,4th and 5th rounds of spades if you have any chance of defeating the contract. Three hearts and a diamond are thrown from dummy…and on the fifth round of spades, your partner throws (we hope) Heart-small4. What about on the 6th round? Do you throw your lowest club? You can safely while your partner throws the Heart-smallK. They know from the bidding that you have the five missing hearts.   

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

 

After the cascade of spades, declarer turns to top diamonds, your partner showing you an even number. Now on the second top diamond, you can throw a heart in comfort and if the Diamond-smallQ is cashed, your last heart. You are still alive to take three club tricks or a diamond and two clubs to defeat the contract.

If you did, you did better than most defenders when this board was played. To succeed, it requires a logical switch at trick 2 and sensible discarding from both players. Until the Heart-smallK, East's second heart,is discarded, West cannot be sure it is safe to release all their hearts.

“Tough Defence?” Certainly challenging!

Richard Solomon

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