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Play and Defend Better: for improving players 7

TOP DEFENCE, SCOTTY.

Working as a partnership…signalling meaningfully where necessary….counting declarer’s hand. These are some aspects of top defence. This week’s hand is not necessarily one you will get right (you would not be alone if you did not as 24 out of 25 pairs failed to do so in a recent New Zealand National event) but you can see what can be achieved when the above attributes are applied correctly.

Here, then, is the problem: 

 

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

 

You are West and make a standard take-out double though everyone passes North’s invitational jump to 3Spade-small. You lead the Club-smallK asking your partner to give count (you play reverse signals where low then high shows an even number of cards in the suit played). Your partner plays the Club-small3 and then Club-small7, with declarer following with Club-small2 then Club-small6. Your play to trick 3?

Most of the 25 West players (hand rotated for convenience) were defending 3Spade-small. I imagine many would have continued with the Heart-smallJ. End of the defence. Even if you switched to the Diamond-smallA followed by your low diamond, declarer has a guess and can guess correctly. If you lead Diamond-smallA then Diamond-smallJ, it is also the end of the defence. Neither another club nor a trump switch would worry the declarer… making 9 tricks. Let’s look at all four hands and see the winning line:

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

 

West was Scott Smith, a top New Zealand player who has not played much in recent years. Let’s see his thought pattern. He knew by the play of the club suit that his partner (David Ackerley) had 2 or 4 clubs. Although David could have had a doubleton, that would give declarer 5 clubs…and 5 spades. With that shape, surely the declarer would have accepted the game invitation?

Thus, Scott could assume David had 4 clubs and declarer 3. Since South had declined the game invitation, it was reasonable to assume David had one of the four key missing honours (Spade-smallAK,Heart-smallA, Diamond-smallK). If that missing honour was a trump and declarer held Heart-smallA and Diamond-smallK, it did not matter which red suit Scott played as if declarer held two hearts and three diamonds, any diamond loser would disappear on the third round of hearts (declarer is known to have 8 black cards and hence just 5 red ones).

Yet, wait, with four clubs, David could and indeed did signal to Scott where his key honour was. If David held Heart-smallA, he would have played a low club and then the highest club he could afford. Yet, David played Club-small3 and then Club-small7, his two lowest clubs. His honour was probably in the lower suit, diamonds, Diamond-smallK, certainly not the Heart-smallA.

Scott could see that the defence needed three diamond tricks quickly, if they could take them. If David held Diamond-small10, then Scott’s play of the suit was irrelevant. Say declarer held Diamond-small10? If David held Diamond-small9 and Diamond-small8, there was still a chance. Therefore, Scott found the killing switch at trick 3 of the Diamond-smallJ.

Declarer had no chance whether he covered or not. This was an unusual type of “surround” play, where you “surround” the opposition’s high card with your own, in that Scott had to presume the key cards (Diamond-small9 and 8) were in his partner’s hand rather than seeing them in his own hand.

The important thing is that this play cost nothing if David held Diamond-small10 but could gain when he did not.

A Summary

By counting South’s high-card points, Scott knew his partner would have an honour.

By getting the count of the club suit,   Scott could tell declarer had three clubs.

With David playing his two low clubs,  Scott could tell David’s honour was likely to be the Diamond-smallK.

Scott knew the defence needed three quick diamond tricks and played the suit to give his side the most chance of getting them.

His reward? 6 imps.

We all know how easy Defence is, don’t we? Right!

Thanks to Scott’s appreciative partner for spilling the beans.

Richard Solomon

 

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