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Play and Defend Better: for improving players 4

SIGNALS DO MATTER.

They do not have to be complex. They are, though, very important. You cannot manage without getting some help from your partner. Take the following example:

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

 

As East, you pass as the opponents bid both of your long suits before finding a diamond fit and then head off to 3NT. You can easily work out that your partner will be contributing very little to the defence of this board as you hold a 14 count. Partner takes some time and selects Spade-small4 as his choice of opening lead.

That’s good and bad from your point of view. The good is that you can score two spade tricks. The bad is that it seems to go some way in helping the declarer set up dummy’s spade suit. Partner is trying to find tricks for you because they have such a weak hand.

So, how are you feeling? You have two spade tricks (assuming you play the queen at trick 1…South appears to hold Spade-small9 from declarer’s decision to play low from dummy), a certain trick in diamonds and the Heart-smallA. You need a fifth trick from somewhere before declarer can come to 9. Have you noticed another piece of good news? Dummy had only an 8 count. Thus, give declarer 14-16 for their decision to bid 3NT after the non-forcing raise to 3Diamond-small and that leaves your partner with between 2 and 4 high card points. Where are they?

You know you can win the lead three more times. So, you do not have to panic immediately. Thus, at trick 2, try a club (Either will do. The advantage of the Club-small2 is that declarer may believe you have a high honour and finesse. It also gives partner a safe exit were they to win the trick.) However, let’s say you lead a more honest Club-smallJ. Declarer wins with the ace and you must watch like a hawk

hawk.jpg

which card your partner plays. Let’s say playing natural signals (high encourage), your partner plays Club-small3. Nothing very encouraging there.

Declarer emerges at trick 3 with the Diamond-smallQ and you win the king. If you passively continue with a second club, you will soon be writing down – 600. You must switch suits and with spades and diamonds off the agenda, there is only one place to go. You have to switch to a heart (as it happens, any heart will do) to beat this contract as these were the four hands:

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

 

Declarer can go up with the Heart-smallK if you led low…but they still only have 7 tricks…three in each minor and one in hearts. They have to lose a trick to the Spade-smallA at which point, the defence could take two heart tricks to defeat the contract by two tricks (low heart away from the ace is best as on the actual hand, as you can overtake partner’s third heart card to score your Heart-small10).

If you had continued with that second club and then you led a low heart when in with the Spade-smallA, South would have no option but to go up with the Heart-smallK to try and make 9 tricks.

Partner’s signal was key. Had partner held Club-smallQ and not the Heart-smallQ, you would not be beating the contract. Had they held Club-smallK, you had to attack clubs. Interestingly, you knew that South had a maximum of three club tricks at trick 1 as the bidding indicated South held 5 hearts and at least 4 diamonds. What with the Spade-small9, that left a maximum of three clubs.

So, you were in a great position to find the winning defence as you held four defensive tricks yourself. All you had to do was try the suits where partner could hold a trick….and then watch which card partner plays.

Richard Solomon

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