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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Double and Defend Strongly when they overstep the mark.

A couple of bidding situations for you first up…. for although this article is primarily about playing and defending hands, the bidding is very much connected with both. East’s passive bidding on these two boards gave the opponents the opportunity for a better result than they were entitled.

Both boards are at Match-points.

As East, you hold:

     
South Deals
None Vul
 
N
W   E
S
 
10 8 7 5
A 8
10 8 7 5 2
6 4
West North East South
      Pass
1  Dbl Pass 1 
2  2  Pass Pass
3  3  ?  

 You are again East holding the following, three aces rather than one:

     
South Deals
None Vul
 
N
W   E
S
 
A 3
A 10 7 4
A 7 6 5 3
8 6
West North East South
      2 
Pass 2  Pass Pass
3  3  ?  

 

2Diamond-small is a Multi 2Diamond-small with 2Spade-small showing a non-game-forcing hand with better hearts than spades. Your partner would either double or bid initially with a strong 15+ type hand. Therefore, they are in the 10-14 range. What would you bid?

Time to wake-up

Let’s go back to the first problem where you have been a spectator to a longish sequence. Your partner has bid aggressively, bidding three times without any prompting from you. They have shown 6 clubs and 4 hearts. You have no wish to bid either of partner’s suits at the 4 level, although the heart holding is excellent for a club contract. Holding an ace and four trumps, your hand is going to prove a little awkward at best for a declarer in 3Spade-small. Maybe it will be more than a little awkward and you should show the opponents your red card! Double them! You might be a little nervous about doing so at Teams but the world will not fall in if 3Spade-small were to make at Pairs.

You have had bottoms before…but that is very pessimistic talk!

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

 

At the table, East passed. West led a top club and continued with a second high club. South was always in trouble even without the bad trump break but that made the task impossible. Declarer ruffed low and played a top diamond. West won and continued with a third round of clubs. Declarer discarded a heart from dummy as East ruffed.

Next came Heart-smallA and two more rounds of hearts and then a fourth round of clubs. Declarer had to ruff with Spade-smallQ and could pick up East’s remaining three trumps but was already down 2. Would you prefer to score +100 or +300? With 3Club-small a certainty to make and even 10 tricks in clubs possible, there was a number of match-points different in whether the final contract had been doubled.

What did you bid over the second 3Spade-small?

Naturally, taking the axe to this 3Spade-small would be a good idea, too. You can hardly underwrite 3NT (only likely to make if partner had solid clubs) and again have no club support. Three aces opposite values in partner’s hand is too much to pass. Your partner must be in the 10-14 hcp range as with more, they would have doubled or bid first time round.

Once more, you could make a club partial, +110 this time being the limit while North could scramble out for -100, two down in 3Spade-small or -300 if doubled (and that assumes declarer guesses successfully in the diamond suit). Either you or partner had to switch to trumps quickly if you chose a non-trump lead:

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

 

After a high club lead, the defence needs to play two rounds of trumps. Declarer has to lead diamonds and guess correctly. North can win in dummy, draw the last trump and exit a diamond. West wins and exits a heart to the ace and a third round of diamonds leaves North stranded in dummy with two club losers. That's two further club tricks for West, 6 tricks in all for the defence, no matter whether or not North ruffs the third round of diamonds.

On both deals, the defence should suspect that their opponents had overstepped the mark and double them. It may be harder for East in our first example but they should never have let 3Spade-small be undoubled in the second. How many juicy penalties have we lost for fear of the occasional good result for the opponents when freaky shape allows such contracts to make?

Also, generally trust your partner’s bidding more than your opponents. It is great for partnership morale and shows you made a good choice of partner!  Oh, and defend aggressively when the need occurs, too.

Richard Solomon

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