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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Time To Count.

Declarer’s hand, that is (well, for today! A declarer may well be able to count a defender’s hand too.) Is that something you never do, rarely do, try and do but get stuck and confused or always do? Be honest. While a thinking bridge player would say you would always try to do so, it is not always necessary or possible. A sequence like 1Heart-small-2Heart-small-4Heart-small does not tell you that much about a declarer’s hand and even the sight of dummy may not give you too many clues.

However, there are many hands when you should try…and when you succeed, the right defence will be more obvious.

We should state that counting declarer’s hand involves counting both high card points and the shape of the hand. A little bit of counting would have gone a long way on the following deal:

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

 

1NT was 15-17 and 2Diamond-small showed hearts with 2Spade-small being natural but only forcing to 3Heart-small. However, South soon had their partnership in game on the lead of the Diamond-small6 from West, covered by the Diamond-small10, your jack and declarer’s king.

At trick 2, declarer led Spade-small9 to their queen followed by a second spade to dummy’s ace and then the Spade-smallK on which declarer discarded Club-small4 as West followed suit. At trick 5, declarer played the high Spade-smallJ which you ruffed with your Heart-smallQ. That brought Club-smallQ discard from declarer and the remaining low spade from your partner. How were you going to beat the contract?

At the table, East decided declarer must have a doubleton club or else why start discarding clubs in such a hurry? Therefore, he decided to draw two rounds of trumps to cut down the ruffing options…but that was the end of the defence.

Count, count, count! It was possible that South had 4 hearts though many players make some form of super-accept over the 2Diamond-small transfer with four trumps. What was more likely was that South had three hearts, from their willingness to play in 4Heart-small. South was known to have two spades while it made little sense for declarer to have more than two clubs. They may have had three headed by the queen though then declarer had a legitimate though anti-percentage play of playing you, East, for both high missing clubs. (South just had to be missing the king.) Therefore, if South was 232 in the three known suits, they must have 6 diamonds.

Counting high card points

So, to high card points. Spade-smallQ and Diamond-smallAK were known (your partner would never underlead the ace) along with the discarded Club-smallQ. That’s 11. To arrive at a minimum 15, declarer just had to have Heart-smallK and almost certainly the Diamond-smallQ (players have been known to open a strong no-trump, especially with a 6-card minor, with only 14 hcp.). So, let's say:

Spade-small Qx   Heart-small Kxx  Diamond-small AK(Q)xxx  Club-smallQ

What should your return be? Best return is a diamond. Hey, partner led that suit! What a revelation….returning partner’s lead!

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

 

With only red cards left, North would have had to play the Diamond-smallQ next (had they exited a low trump, you win and play a club). West would be able to stop declarer discarding a club by ruffing low though, it would be even better ruffing with Heart-small10 as one club was discarded from dummy. West would exit with Club-smallA ruffed in hand though whichever card South played, you, East, would score two more trump tricks (thus four in all) to beat the contract by a trick.

All because you took a minute to count declarer’s hand.

It was very easy for the defence at the other table after the following sequence:

West           North          East             South

                                                              1Diamond-small

Pass            1Heart-small               Pass            3Diamond-small

Pass            3Spade-small                Pass           4Heart-small

All Pass

East was on lead and found a low club lead. A further round of clubs left the declarer with the impossible task of playing trumps for one loser.

Certainly, it was harder for the defence with West on lead. However, a spot of counting would have led East to the correct solution of returning partner’s lead. (p.s. a club return at trick 6 would also have beaten the contract though it is nice to be able to show a problem hand where the solution is simply to return partner’s opening lead!)

A little counting goes a long way.

Counting down.png

 

Richard Solomon

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