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Bridge in Paradise: by Neil Robinson

This week, back to defence, the most difficult part of bridge because you cannot see what your partner has. I have just been kicking myself about some poor defensive plays that I have made recently. This hand illustrates one. This was the bidding:

West North East South
P 1D P 1N
P 3N All pass  

Now, imagine you are sitting East. Dummy and your hand are shown below:

  S: Q52  
  H: AQJ  
  D: AKJ98  
  C: Q2  
S: ?   S: AJ93
H: ?   H: 63
D: ?   D: 7532
C: ?   C: A109
  S: ?  
  H: ?  
  D: ?  
  C: ?  

My partner led the seven of hearts. Dummy played the jack, which won the trick. Declarer then led a low club from board. Which card do you play? If you played the ten or the nine, this is the same as I did. If you played the ace—congratulations—you are probably already a skilled defender and do not need to read on. If, like me, you played low, maybe you are wondering why it is wrong. After all the bridge maxim says “second hand low”.
The reason it is wrong to play low here is that you can see eight tricks in dummy. Three heart tricks—from the lead your partner probably has the king, but this is trapped by dummy’s holding. Five diamond tricks—even if your partner holds the queen, it will not score because it also is trapped under dummy’s holding. Based on the bidding, South has at least five points, and probably more. If you let declarer get a club trick, then he has nine tricks and scores 3NT. The only chance to defeat the contract is in spades. If your partner has the king of spades, there is a chance. If declarer has it, or if you delay until declarer wins a club trick, then there is no chance to defeat the contract. So, you must rise with the ace of clubs and lead a low spade to your partner’s (presumed) king. When you partner wins and leads back a spade this traps the queen. With a good split in spades, you will take four spade tricks to go with the ace of clubs. The full deal is shown below. If you play low in clubs, declarer makes 3NT. If you go up with the ace, you beat the contract.

  S: Q52  
  H: AQJ  
  D: AKJ98  
  C: Q2  
S: K84   S: AJ93
H: K10872   H: 63
D: 6   D: 7532
C: 8643   C: A109
  S: 1076  
  H: 954  
  D: Q104  
  C: KJ75  

The lesson I learned is about counting declarer’s tricks. If declarer is about to win sufficient tricks for the contract, do not duck, even if you are second hand. Win and play to try and make enough tricks to beat it.
I would like to hear from readers about their favourite hands—please do contact me at [email protected] Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes all players. We have members from seventeen different countries already. For information on the Club go to the website

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Bridge in Paradise