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Basic Defence: for less experienced players and others.

It is time to remember two, maybe even three, basic rules of defending. Had East done so on today’s deal, then their partnership would not have got such a poor result from the board. It came from a Pairs event. Thus, restricting overtricks is as important as beating the opponent’s game contract. At the table, East’s defence ensured the game would make in comfort, even with an overtrick.

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

 

3 was 4th suit forcing, artificial and forcing to game. Your partner leads K and then Q and then a third diamond which is ruffed by the declarer who plays a club to dummy and then 10.

Plan the defence, firstly to that trick and then later when you have to find two discards on two rounds of trumps. Which two cards do you throw?

So, two questions. The first challenge for East came after the defence had taken their two diamond tricks. It seemed that South had crossed to dummy to play a trump. East knew that declarer was missing the ♠K. Maybe a second honour was missing as well? If it was the ace, then a low spade could be led from the South hand.

There is a basic rule which could equally apply to the declarer as well as a defender. You should cover an honour with an honour if it could benefit your side by doing so. As you may imagine, East played low on the♠10. ♠10 is an honour even if a fairly lowly one. However, when East did not play their king on the 10, declarer could draw trumps without losing a trick. Take a look:

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

 

There are times when it might benefit your side by playing ♠K on ♠5. South might play you for another honour and waste an entry to dummy to try a (failing) finesse. That was not the case here. There was no danger in crushing a high card from your partner’s trump suit: you only had two spades and declarer had no more than six (remember they have at least four hearts as well as two diamonds and a club).

Cover with the king and your partner’s ♠9 will score a trick. Play low and it will not.

Thus, when East did not cover, declarer played four rounds of trumps. East had to find two discards. The first was easy, the remaining diamond, even if it had some potential for winning a trick. What about the second discard? It was a choice between a heart and a club.

Basic rule number two for a defender is to, if possible, keep the same number of cards in a suit bid by either declarer or the dummy hand. This applies especially to four-card suits. There are times when a genuine squeeze takes place and you cannot do this. If that is not the situation, then it is a wise rule to follow. East did not. They discarded a small heart.

East was concerned to keep their club hold. Perhaps they thought they were being squeezed. However, they should have realised that when the fourth round of spades was played, South had no more trumps left.

Also, South had at most one more club because they still had 4 hearts. South’s full shape was almost known to East, either 5-5 in the majors or, 5 spades and 4 hearts. If South's club was the jack, then East was genuinely squeezed. If South held any other club, then West could guard the club suit but only East could guard hearts unless West held ♥A. This seemed unlikely since South had opened the bidding.

The key card was the ♥J. If declarer held it, the defence could not take a heart trick but if West held it, then it was crucial East hold all four hearts. On the actual deal, South could still have made their contract by playing dummy’s two high hearts and then finessing by playing ♥9 on the third round. Great play with their actual cards but they would be concerned that West held ♥JT8 and was false-carding when the ♥J was played.

No problem though when East had already thrown a heart but not so easy when they had not. The second discard had to be a club not because that play would have secured an extra trick for the defence but because it might.

It is the same as covering honours. Retain four cards in a suit held by declarer or dummy if it might gain you a trick.

And the third good basic defensive guideline? It revolves around remembering the bidding!

“Cover an honour with an honour if it might benefit your side.”

“Retain the same length in a suit bid by declarer or dummy if at all possible.”

“Remember the bidding.”

We never said defence was easy!

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Multi Problems

The Multi 2♦ does seem to create problems, sometimes for the side which opens and otherwise for the opponents. What to bid in the following sequence?

 
7 2
Q J 7
J 10
A J 10 8 7 2
West North East South
    2  Dbl
2  3  Pass 3 
Pass ?    

 

2♦ was either a Weak 2 in a major or a strong 20-22 balanced hand. When South doubled, it became the former.

The double showed a strong 16+ hand but not a strong 16-18 no trump hand. 3♦ was natural and strong. What now?

Richard Solomon

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