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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

The Natural Reaction.

You must know the saying “Cover an honour with an honour.” Perhaps, you know the unofficial end to this saying too: “Cover an honour with an honour unless it cannot benefit your side by doing so.”

Sometimes when it is blatantly wrong to do so, players cover. The most common example is in trumps. Take the following example:

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

 

North raised quickly to game after their partner’s spade opening and West’s take-out double. West led their top heart won by the ace. South should be able to come to at least 10 tricks by discarding a club on the established high diamond. However, this was Pairs and South wanted overtricks.

One unknown factor was the location of the Spade-smallK. The percentage line is to take the finesse especially as West’s take-out double would indicate greater spade length with East than West. However, West had the majority of the defence’s high card points. Did that include the singleton Spade-smallK? Thus, there was some doubt in South’s mind as to who held the Spade-smallK.

South decided to possibly enlist some help in finding who held the Spade-smallK. They ruffed a heart at trick 2 and led the Spade-smallJ. South may or may not have made up their mind as to which card to play from their own hand had East played the Spade-small8. However, when East played the Spade-smallK, there was no decision.

Even if North-South were playing four card majors, there was nothing to be gained from playing the king while if North-South were opening with a five card spade suit, it was very dangerous to cover.  If West held either the singleton spade ace or queen, there was a lot to lose by covering. East could never promote a trick by doing so.  

Remember the whole saying. As a defender in such a situation, plan early. Plan when you see dummy. "What if declarer goes to dummy and plays the Spade-smallJ? What will I do?"The answer will not be just “I will play low”….but “I will play low in perfect tempo”.

The above is a common but not a hard situation. Defenders should get such decisions right.

The same holding, a different contract, but the same decision. One would not necessarily expect you to get this one right. West had opened a strongish 1NT and after your partner had bid 3Spade-smalland dummy 3NT, you passed holding:

Spade-small 52

Heart-small T8743

Diamond-small JT72

Club-small K3

 

     
Board 28
West Deals
N-S Vul
 
N
W   E
S
 
A 7
Q 9 5
Q 9 4
Q 9 8 7 5
 
5 2
10 8 7 4 3
J 10 7 2
K 3
West North East South
    dummy you
1 NT 3  3 NT All pass

 

Spade-smallA won the first trick with declarer calling immediately for the Club-smallQ. Would you cover? It seems normal to do so.

This is much harder…. but you would have needed to have made up your mind what to do the moment your saw dummy. Covering helped declarer. Don’t worry if you got that wrong. When you are as experienced as Ashley Bach, you will get such decisions right. It is the “bread and butter” ones you need to get right. Sometimes it is unclear but in others, there is a clear action to take and you must be ready to take it.

Richard Solomon

p.s. As declarer in such a situation as in 4Spade-small above, remember to give the defender a chance to go wrong. Even if South had decided to play West for the singleton Spade-smallK, crossing to dummy to lead Spade-smallJ was nil cost, possibly great gain.

p.p.s. The full deal re the 3NT hand (from the recent test between Australia and New Zealand) was:

Board 28
West Deals
N-S Vul
K Q J 9 8 6 3
K J
K 6 5
4
10 4
A 6 2
A 8 3
A J 10 6 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
A 7
Q 9 5
Q 9 4
Q 9 8 7 5
 
5 2
10 8 7 4 3
J 10 7 2
K 3
West North East South
    dummy Ashley Bach
1 NT 3  3 NT All pass

 Ashley Bach emerald GM 2019.jpg
  Ashley did not cover...and that's why
 he has an Emerald plaque.

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