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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

                                       “Bread and Butter” Defence

Success in Bridge does not come that often from brilliancies. Dine out on them when they happen but it is far more important you do the basics right. In Pairs Bridge, restricting overtricks as a defender is one of the most important things you need to do. A 70% average plus outcome can turn into a miserable 20% score because the basics were not followed.

  No brilliant defence is required on today’s problem but it highlights that the basics are really not followed by lots of players.  Are you ready?

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

 

Your partner leads Diamond-small6 (leads are 2nds and 4ths) which declarer wins with Diamond-smallK in dummy and plays Heart-small2 to your Heart-small5 and declarer's Heart-small6, your partner winning with Heart-smallK, Next comes Diamond-small2 to Diamond-small10, your Diamond-smallQ and declarer's Diamond-smallA. Declarer cashes Heart-smallA with your partner contributing Heart-small4 and then plays Club-smallK and a second club to dummy's Club-small9 and your Club-smallJ. (Your partner played Club-small2 followed by Club-small3.) What next?

Are you still there? If not, then that is the first sin you have committed as a defender!

Let’s recap. South has a minimum opener with almost always a 6-card heart suit. Indeed, their failure to play a 3rd round of trumps confirms they have 6.

You hold the master trump and your side has already scored a trump and a club trick.

What happened?

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

 

Rather lazily, East continued with a third round of diamonds which declarer ruffed, and continued with a third club to the Club-smallA in dummy. East had to follow suit and even though they ruffed the fourth round of clubs, one of declarer’s losing spades disappeared allowing South to make one overtrick, one trick more than they were entitled. That overtrick turned a potential average plus score for the defence into a very poor result.

Why switch to spades…or why NOT continue diamonds?

Let’s answer the second question first. Partner led Diamond-small6 and then when in, continued with a lower diamond. That suggested a 5-card diamond suit, if the opening lead was 4th highest. South had normally denied a 4-card minor, which just about confirmed West had 5 diamonds.

Yet, put yourself in declarer’s position. If South had a losing diamond, they would try to ruff the third round in dummy before drawing trumps. So, you should know that South has no more diamonds.

As a defender, where possible, you should try to count (and remember!) the high card point-count shown by declarer. That piece of information may help you. Here, South has owned up to the Heart-smallA, Diamond-smallA and Club-smallK, 11 high card points, enough to open the bidding. They could have up to 15 hcp because if they were stronger, they would have jumped to 3Heart-small with the same shaped hand.

Therefore, although they could hold Spade-smallA (just) or Spade-smallQ, they could not hold both. If they have both, they have missed game! So, you know your partner has either Spade-smallA or Spade-smallQ and maybe even both. Many players fear leading away from a king. Sometimes, doing so leaves egg on the face of a defender but certainly not here. Thus, it was 100% safe and of course imperative that East switches to a spade.

There were two other clues too. Spades was an unplayed suit, certainly by declarer and more importantly, the club play suggested losers somewhere and that had to be in spades. Declarer just had to have a third club and was hoping that you would not find the spade switch. Do not grant their wish.

East was wise not to cash their winning trump first because if they did and South did hold the Spade-smallA, the defence would not take a spade trick. (although that would have left South with just one spade loser which disappears as East ruffs the fourth club).

So:

Count declarer’s high card points

Remember the bidding

Try to work out what the declarer is trying to do

Think about your partner’s opening lead

Think about what the declarer did NOT do

Do not be afraid to lead away from kings

head scratching.jpg

Well, no-one said defence was easy! That’s a lot to think about. Some combination of the above, or simply attacking an unplayed suit would have guided East to the right defence.

Only one overtrick at stake! If you use the word “only”, then you will not succeed at Pairs. The defence and this deal would not appear in most people’s post mortems. Yet, it is just as important, probably even more so, than the unusual bid or declarer play you found on a different board which fooled an opponent.

“Bread and Butter” the basis for success.

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How good is your memory?

Well, if you played in the 1998 New Zealand National Bridge Congress, you must then remember this problem! (It’s OK. Do not think your memory has totally gone if you cannot!) It is a deal that was significant for at least one pair at that Congress.

East Deals
Both Vul
   
A 9 5
K 10 5 4
A 10
9 8 7 6
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
    1  Pass
1  Pass 3  Pass
?      

 

Natural bidding so far. What next?

Richard Solomon

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