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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Cutting down the Losers.

When you are playing a suit contract, you must look at how many losers or possible losers you might have and then decide the best way to reduce that to a number where you can make your contract. When you are in 4 of a major, that number cannot be more than three:

South Deals
E-W Vul
J 5
A 5 3
A K 6
J 9 7 4 2
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
K Q 7 2
J 10 9 7 6
J
A K 3
West North East South
      1 
Pass 2  Dbl 3 
Pass 4  All pass  

 

North’s delayed game raise saw their partnership reach game very easily with minimal interference from East. West led Spade-small10. If East took their Spade-smallA at trick 1, there looked like just a spade and a maximum of two trump losers. Although there was a potential club loser, there was a discard available on the Diamond-smallK and the club loser could disappear there.

Such was South’s thinking when they saw dummy. However, defenders are not always that obliging. Declarer did not put up dummy’s Spade-smallJ but neither did East put up their Spade-smallA! Trick 1 was won by the Spade-smallQ which left South with the problem of a second potential spade loser as well as the losers above.

At trick 2, declarer exited with a second spade with East returning a slightly annoying Diamond-smallQ to dummy (a low diamond away from the queen would have been much more helpful for South!. So, declarer decided to play their second top diamond discarding a club and ruffed a diamond back to hand to play Heart-smallJ losing to East’s queen. East played Spade-small9. South created problems for themselves by playing Spade-smallK which West ruffed with Heart-small8…and declarer was in big trouble.

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

 

They over-ruffed with Heart-smallA and tried to return to hand with a club (playing a trump would have resulted in a certain extra spade loser)…but East’s Heart-small2 sealed the contract’s fate. Declarer lost 2 high trumps, a club ruff and Spade-smallA for one down.

That was a pity as they had escaped the killing initial club lead from West. (after the club ruff, East has to exit with a low spade to be sure of defeating the contract as if declarer guesses to play Heart-smallA after suffereing the ruff, there would otherwise be no way West can communicate back to their partner to achieve a spade ruff with Heart-small8, the setting trick.

Certainly, South was unlucky with the club break though shortage in clubs was certainly a possibility indicated by East’s double. Declarer's plan should have been to ruff a spade and discard the possible club loser. They carried out part of that plan but the spade play left declarer with an unforeseen opposition ruff.

A Better Approach

Return the spade at trick 2 and then discard the possible club loser as above on Diamond-smallK, ruff a diamond and play the low spade from hand. Ruff and over-ruff with Heart-smallA and then play a low trump Even if East were to play Heart-smallQ (which they may not), the defence can now only take the top 2 hearts and the Spade-smallA. That Heart-small5 in dummy is a pretty useful card, beating West’s Heart-small4 if needed.

There should have been only three actual losers though South created a fourth, a pity when they could have made an unmakeable contract.

Richard Solomon

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