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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

A HELPING HAND

That’s for your partner. The idea is that when you are defending you combine to find the best defence possible. Sometimes, the best action to take is obvious to you. You do not need partner’s advice. Yet, on other occasions, you are not really sure or else the high cards are not located as you imagine.

Help can be needed and given when a shortage appears on dummy in the suit you have just led. No more tricks in that suit, or not until dummy’s trumps have disappeared.

Take the following deal played last week in the final of the Gold Coast Teams.

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

 

You start off by leading the ace of your partner’s suit with dummy producing that annoying singleton. Which of the two hands has your partner got?

            East                            East

           Spade-small T2                          Spade-small A2

           Heart-small 76                          Heart-small 76

           Diamond-small KQ9764                 Diamond-small KQ9764

           Club-small KQ9                       Club-small 754

Both fit in with the bidding, with your partner having around 9 to 10 high card points. If they have the first one, you must now switch to a low club in order to get two club tricks before South knocks out your Spade-smallK and gets a club discard on the fourth round of spades (yes, your partner needs to have the Club-small9 for this play to work so that they can force out the Club-smallA at trick 3).

However, if they have the second hand, then the only winning defence is an immediate low spade switch so that you can give partner a spade ruff on the third round of the suit.

Which hand type do you play partner for? They might have made a weak jump overcall with either hand. However, they did not and one of these two East hands was the actual hand held.

So, you need your partner to give you an idea as to what to do at trick 2:

Help, please

If partner has the first hand, they will play a low diamond at trick1, suggesting a switch to the lower of the two non-played non-trump suits. Diamond-small4

If they have the second hand, then they will play as high a diamond as they can afford to throw to indicate a switch to the higher suit. Diamond-small9

If they have no preference, or want a diamond continuation or maybe a trump switch, they will play a middle diamond. Diamond-small6 or Diamond-small7.

clear signal.png

as clear a signal as you can!

Only a suggestion, partner.

The card partner plays is not a demand, more of a suggestion that from their side of the table, one switch might work better than another. However, unless you can see that a different switch is warranted, then it is best to follow partner’s advice, good for the post-mortem and here very good advice on how to beat the opponent’s game contract.

So, which hand did East have? To trick 1, East played Diamond-small9 and West, well at least one West, switched to the Spade-small4, indicating they held an honour in that suit. Within a few seconds, the defence had taken the first four tricks to defeat the contract:

North Deals
None Vul
Q 9 7 5
A 9 5 2
5
A J 6 2
K 8 6 4
10 4 3
A 10 2
10 8 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
A 2
7 6
K Q 9 7 6 4
7 5 4
 
J 10 3
K Q J 8
J 8 3
K Q 9

 

   
     
   
West North East South
You Dummy    
  1  1  1 
Dbl 2  3  4 
All pass      

 

It was mandatory to switch to a spade at trick 2 to defeat this contract. West may or may not have got the defence right without their partner’s signal but their signal made it so much easier for West. Make it as easy for partner as you can.

Other situations to signal.

It is not just when a singleton appears in dummy that the opening leader’s partner should try to give a signal as to what to do next. Against a suit contract, while possible, it is unlikely when, after the lead of an ace, dummy holds say Kx or KQJ or KQxx that a count or encouraging signal will help. These may be times for a similar suit preference signal from partner.

Best of all, if you can deduce that partner’s lead is the singleton ace (not always that easy before they hesitate after you have played to trick 1!), then you  can guide your partner as to which suit to play to get to your hand at trick 2. You can do so much more in these situations than just follow suit or maybe give count or encouragement. Time for a suit preference signal to find the best co-operative defence.

Richard Solomon

   

 

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