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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

A Good Question to Ask.

Ask who? You are defending a game contract. You cannot skip off for a drink and find a helpful player to ask! You cannot ask partner. Declarer will not divulge!  The only one you can ask is yourself! It is amazing how helpful the answer can sometimes be!

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

 

No messing from South. Straight to game with probably more hearts than high-card points! Your partner leads Spade-small7 and declarer calls for a low card from dummy. You play the ace and see South’s Spade-smallQ appear. What do you play at trick 2?

What then is the question you should be asking?

Let’s address that first. It goes along the lines of “if that really is South’s only spade, what does that tell us about the opening lead and partner’s hand?”

Let’s look at West’s spades….JT87… an honest 4th highest lead? Strange as with that holding, most players would lead the jack. Has partner had a momentary lapse or is that not the true situation?

The moment you think along those lines, you may well be guided to the right solution. At the table, the sight of that Spade-smallQ put East off as was the intention. East switched to the Diamond-smallQ won in dummy with declarer next playing a low heart to the 9 and West's king. There was no longer any defence to beat the contract:

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

 

Everyone will at times be caught out by a bluff similar to South’s Spade-smallQ. It’s all South can do to try to avert a ruff. Yet, by asking yourself what the lead would then have been from, had the card played been an “honest” card, you might discover how “honest “or not declarer had been!

The situation is not quite that straightforward. Say South had Spade-smallQJ doubleton. That would leave West with Spade-smallT87. The Spade-small7 would indeed be a credible lead if your side led 3rds and 5ths but not if you lead MUD (“middle, up, down") from three small cards. (Sometimes, we regard the 10 as an honour. Here, though, it is just an ordinary card. Some do not even like leading low from Jxx let alone 10xx. )

There is also the chance that South held QJT…but that would leave your partner with Spade-small87… and does your partnership lead low from a doubleton? Most do not.

That Spade-smallQ is so suspicious that East should have returned the suit..Spade-small2 asking for a club return. It is not even that there was an obvious switch to make.

The Wrong Bluff

Yet, South probably could have played a better false-card. They could tell from the spade pips and East’s take-out double that East was very likely to have 4 spades. They needed East to believe the lead was from length  . The jack would have been a better false-card as then the lead could have been from QT87 or maybe 1087. The first would be a legitimate lead for all who lead 4th highest or attitude style.

However, that Spade-smallQ caught out East who believed the card which was played smoothly. If you are worried about the card you see being a bluff, just check what holding your partner would then have. With a wry smile, East here could then return partner’s lead and inwardly initially compliment declarer on a nice false-card…one which did not catch them out!
Richard Solomon

 

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