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New To The Table. The Play of the Hand.

A Good time NOT to win a trick.

We spend about half our time during the play of a hand defending. So, it is well worth looking at some of the things a good defender could do. That’s in addition to learning about playing hands and the important art of being a good dummy. I hope you are!

So, to our defensive problem from Friday. We gave you your hand and dummy and asked you whether you should win trick 2 with your Heart-smallK..and then if you do win the trick, which card do you lead to trick 3?

West Deals
None Vul
8 3
A Q J 7 4 2
9 5 3
8 7
   
N
W   E
S
 
10 9 6 5
K 9 8
10 7 6 4 2
6
West North East South
  dummy you  
1  1  Pass 1 
2  Pass Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 The story so far...

Your partner led the Club-smallJ to trick 1, won by declarer’s queen. Out came Heart-small10 from declarer and a low heart from your partner and dummy. Do you take your Heart-smallK and if so, which card do you lead to trick 3?

Of course, you cannot do what you would like to do, which is return the suit partner bid twice and then led. Club-smallJ would almost certainly be the second highest card from what is called an interior sequence. That means a holding like AJ10 or KJ10 to 6 clubs. The lead of the Club-smallJ denies the queen but not another higher honour, maybe two higher.

Duck Time

We will defer the question of to which suit we would switch for a moment because as the title of this article suggests, we would duck the Heart-small10 and then have to decide what to play when, we hope, declarer’s next play is a heart to the jack.

Why duck? Although it is possible that South has only one heart, chances are that they have more, probably two. This is because with only one heart, South would overtake the Heart-small10 with dummy’s jack, hoping West has Heart-smallK and that they could then make 2 tricks in the suit…Heart-smallJ, then Heart-smallA. Playing low does not give South any chance of making a second heart even if West held the king.

Thus, we assume that South has a second heart.

Always remember the bidding.

North showed at least a 5-card heart suit and South did not support hearts. Therefore, chances are that South does not have more than 2 hearts. Indeed, the play of the Heart-small10 is very consistent with holding two hearts, so that if the finesse works, they can repeat it on the next trick.

We know the finesse is going to fail but also that if we win the Heart-smallK, South will have a second heart to play to dummy and will enjoy five heart tricks. If you duck (and this duck should be done smoothly, “in tempo”, so that South thinks that they have taken a successful finesse, they will try and repeat it…and now you surprise/ shock South by winning your king).

There is no longer an entry to dummy for South to enjoy four more heart winners. The technique of ducking one’s king to cut declarer off from dummy or at very least to make them use up a side-suit entry to dummy too soon in order to reach dummy’s suit is quite common.

Disaster Duck

The only time when it is not such a good idea is when your partner has lots of tricks to take in a suit (possible (say West had Club-smallAKJT to 7 clubs and Diamond-smallA) but unlikely here) and declarer has 9 tricks thanks to your duck.

It’s time to look at all 4 hands:

West Deals
None Vul
8 3
A Q J 7 4 2
9 5 3
8 7
   
N
W   E
S
 
10 9 6 5
K 9 8
10 7 6 4 2
6
West North East South
  dummy you  
1  1  Pass 1 
2  Pass Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 No duck: Contract makes

If you won the Heart-smallK at trick 2, your best switch would be to the unbid suit, diamonds. However, declarer will score five heart tricks, at least one in each minor suit (depending on what West plays to trick 4) and the top 2 spades (yes, an overtrick as the Spade-smallJ becomes a trick, too.)

The Reward of Ducking

If you duck, South will repeat the finesse and you win your king, switching to a lowish diamond. South cannot come to 9 tricks with only one in hearts, even if West gives South a second club trick. South can take 1 trick in each red suit, maybe 4 spades and 2 club tricks. That’s 8 and one down….thanks to your smooth duck of the Heart-small10. Playing to tempo without hesitation is really important. It does not come easy but is as important as knowing what to do.

And Kx?

You will be a top class and very brave defender when you gauge the right time when you hold only Kx in the key suit. Don’t blush, either, as you duck! The declarer will smell a rat!

A Word on the North-South bidding.

We talked on Friday about South’s actions over their partner’s overcall. What, though, of North? Was 1Heart-small the best action on their hand? Most players, especially not vulnerable, play weak jump overcalls, 6-10 hcp and a 6-card suit. That really is what North has and maybe should have called.

If North had called 2Heart-small over 1Club-small, South still has a choice of contracts from which to decide. Knowing their partner held 6 hearts might have got South to bid 4Heart-small. Ironically, 4Heart-small is a contract which has no play after a club lead and return, ruffed, Diamond-smallA and Heart-smallK. South could still have anticipated this happening and chosen 3NT, the game which had chances of making, until East’s smooth duck of Heart-small10.

A Touch of Bad Luck.

bad luck.jpg

South was unlucky that East held the Heart-smallK. After bidding twice, the odds favoured West to hold that card, heavily. Had West held Heart-smallKx or Heart-smallKxx, South would have scored 9 easy tricks. Good contracts do sometimes fail to pieces of bad luck..though South would still have survived their bad luck had East won the first round of hearts.

Richard Solomon

 

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