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Play and Defend Better: for improving players 1

The Ruff You Do Not Want!

You have a singleton in your partner’s suit. You have a tenuous trump holding in the opponent’s suit, KJ2 with both A and Q in the hand where you do not want them. Yet, if partner gives you a ruff, that is, as they say, the end of the defence!

What is more is that the declarer encouraged your partner to give you a ruff. A Greek Gift if ever there was one. Look at all four hands:

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


East opened a Multi Coloured 2Diamond-small with West having a fair idea that their partner had a Weak 2 in spades, hence the 2Spade-small bid, non-forcing but with preference for hearts. North had enough for a take-out double of spades (perhaps not quite enough if partner bid clubs!) but South made the good choice of calling 3Heart-small.

There matters rested with West starting off with the Spade-small8. South knew for certain that West held just one spade but also knew that West was a strong favourite to hold more hearts than East (from that 2Spade-small bid). Therefore, reducing West’s trump holding seemed a good idea…on the above lay-out a very good idea!

Thus, declarer ducked the opening lead to East who could also work out the lay-out of the spade suit. Back came the Spade-small9 with East indicating a diamond switch after the spade ruff. This duly happened, but not to the defence’s advantage.

Declarer won the Diamond-smallA, crossed to the Club-smallA and played a low trump to the queen and then played Heart-smallA, drawing all the defence’s trumps. The declarer could then play the high Spade-smallA and Spade-small 10 in dummy, discarding the two losing diamonds from their own hand and thus made an overtrick, losing just a spade, the spade ruff and a club trick.

The spade ruff was an odd kind of loser on loser play as South knew they had to lose a trump trick and that they could not enjoy the spade honours without losing a spade, indeed in effect losing two spades or a spade and a trump early. Had East done the seemingly impossible and switched to a diamond at trick 2, the defence could have taken two diamond tricks and two major suit tricks along with the club to which they were always entitled….one down!

So, next time the declarer gives you a ruffing opportunity willingly, maybe think if they knew that was going to happen and if so, whether you should. Declarers do not normally do so without some ulterior motive. The winning defence was hard to find but declarer’s action and the highish spade cards in dummy might just have got East thinking. Well played, Grant Jarvis.

Richard Solomon


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