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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Keeping out of the Way.

You find the right lead, the only lead to beat a contract….and then something major goes wrong! Take a look:

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

 

You lead Club-smallA and everyone follows with partner playing a fairly encouraging Club-small4 (low encouraging) as declarer followed with Club-small2. What should you do next?

Say partner held Club-smallQ ? 4, a three- card suit and you cashed the king. The suit would be blocked unless partner played the queen under your king. So, should you lead a low club at trick 2? Yet, does partner now promise the Club-smallQ? If partner had five small clubs and declarer Q2, you would not win a brilliant defence award by leading a low club!

So, you continue with Club-smallK on which partner plays Club-small6 and declarer Club-small3. You have to believe partner now. They must have either the queen or at least four clubs to encourage you. If they did have Q64, a three-card suit, they must have at least thought about throwing their queen under your king (hoping you have Club-small109 or a Club-small10 and a 5-card suit) because they can see otherwise that they are blocking the suit.

“Blocking”? Who mentioned that term? Hopefully, you are alert enough not to be accused of that bridge sin. If partner had Q to 4 clubs, it does not really matter how you play the club suit..but when West exited rather thoughtlessly with Club-small7, they were soon going to have a rather red face…

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

 

East could not see the Club-small10 and therefore had to play Club-smallQ….and suddenly a fourth round of clubs left you, West, on lead with your partner’s contract- beating 5th club stranded. Had East played Club-small8 instead of Club-smallQ, it would have been a heroic recovery (costing West at least a free drink for partner!).  East would have felt a little deflated had South emerged with Club-small10!

Make it easy for partner

We can see that East had no outside entry but maybe their partner still had a fifth defensive trick, although it is unlikely how that could be the case if South really had enough to bid 3NT. Nevertheless, East should never have been put under this kind of pressure.

Sometimes we cannot avoid blocking a suit as we as defenders cash tricks. Where we can, we must make every effort to avoid doing so. West’s failure to play Club-small10 at trick 3 was lazy and or showed they did not really trust their partner’s signalling, which had been perfect.

Whatever the club position really was, that 6-card diamond suit in dummy threatened a lot of tricks for South once they gained the lead. What a shame West was not careful enough in their play of the club suit…well, not a shame from South’s point of view!

West’s failure to make a take-out double of 1Diamond-small was a trifle conservative. Had they done so, South would have probably settled for a safe diamond part-score. As it was, 3NT was a slight overbid which needed accurate defence, or no blockage, to beat.

Richard Solomon

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