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Why experts rarely make mistakes in declarer play

Figure 1

As I’ve often said before in this column, of the three pillars that make up the game of contract bridge – bidding, declarer play and defence – by far the hardest one to learn is declarer play.

Bidding can be learnt from books or though a lot of practice away from the table – defence also has a number of rules and guidelines one can follow to make life easier when defending, but in declarer play it is all about playing hand after hand after hand, for weeks, months, maybe years before it all clicks into place. And it will.

At the top level of the game the experts make mistakes in declarer play once in a blue moon – they may misguess a situation, or at times take a line of play that is slightly inferior to the best line, but rarely do they go badly wrong.

One of the reasons for this is that they do their thinking at trick one and then choose a Plan A and a Plan B and then concentrate on executing the plan.

On today’s hand, declarer was clearly not a thinker or planner!

After this fairly agricultural, but not unreasonable, sequence, declarer landed in 3NT.

West led the Queen of hearts. Declarer took this with his King and, without any discernible thought, cashed the King of clubs. Next, he crossed to dummy with a spade to the Ace to play Ace and another club. When East turned up with Queen-Jack fourth of clubs the contract could no longer be made.

“That was unlucky,” moaned South. “I make the contract if clubs are 3-3 or if one defender has a doubleton with an honour.”

“Luck had nothing to do with the matter,” North observed. “You played too quickly at trick two. All you had to do was overtake the King of clubs with dummy’s Ace and play the ten of clubs.

“If West has Queen-Jack third or fourth of clubs and five hearts to the Queen-Jack-ten, then the eight and nine of hearts will combine to provide a second stopper in the suit.

“When East has both the missing club honours, as here, the defenders can take at most two tricks in whichever red suit they attack.

“On a heart return after the second club, you rise with the Ace of hearts, cross to dummy in spades and drive out the outstanding club honour. As the hearts will be at worst 4=2, you will have nine tricks: four tricks in the major suits, the Ace of diamonds and four clubs.

“On a diamond return after East wins the second round of clubs, your Queen-ten in the suit will limit the defenders to at most two tricks in the suit, should East lead a second diamond after he regains the lead in clubs.”

Funny how partners usually seem to know the right answer – and funny how they usually share it with you!

David Ezekiel can be contacted at davidezekiel999@gmail.com


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Published June 08, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated June 08, 2024 at 7:17 am)

Why experts rarely make mistakes in declarer play

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