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Absorb this play to improve your defence

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Good defence at bridge takes a bit of work – you have to try and construct declarer’s and partner’s hand from the bidding, and then refine your view as the play of the hand proceeds. Sometimes that is difficult, other times really easy, sometimes it takes a while and at other times clarity comes really early.

Figure 1

This hand is a good example of the need for clear thinking in defence. Funnily enough the hand came to me when I was writing something about Tony Saunders in my column a few weeks ago – my guess is that we played the hand around 1985 and all I remember is that Tony was declarer and that we were sitting at that table closest to the kitchen!

Figure 2

Tony, sitting South, opened a strong 2 clubs, partner responded 2 diamonds, which in those days was a negative (nowadays it is a ‘waiting’ bid), and Tony jumped to 3NT and all passed. I led the heart 2 and this is what I saw (see Figure 1).

Figure 3

The first thing that came to mind was that the pass by North over the 3NT was timid – Tony had bid the game counting on partner for nothing, and holding AQJ105 of a suit looks like gold and at the very least merited a raise to 4NT inviting partner to bid slam if his hand was really special. Anyway, we were on defence and had to minimise the number of overtricks in order to get a decent score.

Figure 4

Partner played the 10 of hearts at trick one and Tony won the Ace – he now ran the AKQJ of clubs and then cashed the King of diamonds and started running diamonds meaning that I had to find two discards in the majors. This was the position at trick 10 (see Figure 2):

Tony had already discarded the 9 and Queen of spades on two diamonds and on the last diamond discarded the King of spades leaving me to find a discard. Which card do I discard?

Figure 5

What do we know about his hand so far? He clearly has the AKQ of hearts, AKQJ of Clubs, KQ9 of spades and K7 of diamonds- what was his 13th card?

His hand was either KQJ9, AKQ, K7, AKQJ (he was expert enough to false-card in spades by throwing the KQ and retaining the jack) in which case I must throw a heart, or his hand was KQ9, AKQx, K7, AKQJ in which case I have to throw away my Ace of spades!

Is it 50-50? Do I look up at the sky for divine guidance? Not quite … … think back to trick one and see if you can solve the puzzle.

Here you go – when partner played the heart 10 at trick one he was denying a higher card and…….he denied holding the 9 of hearts! Because in third seat with touching cards he would play the lower of the two touching cards. Eureka – if partner didn’t have the 9 that Tony did, and now the discard of the spade Ace became easy as his three remaining cards must be the KQ9 of hearts!

The full hand (see Figure 3):

We were already getting a good board because North had not driven to slam and holding Tony to 12 tricks was icing on the cake as many declarers took all 13 tricks whether playing the slam or not, so we were rewarded with a near top. Not that difficult once you clear away the noise and think clearly.

Why is the play of the lower of two touching cards in 3rd seat important?

Take a look at this holding (see Figure 4).

You lead the 2 of the suit, partner plays the jack and declarer plays the Ace – now you know partner must have the Queen or declarer would have won with that card. So if you are in you can play diamonds safely.

Now look at this (see Figure 5).

This time when you lead the 2 partner plays the Queen and declarer wins the Ace. Now you know that declarer holds the Jack (as partner did not play it) and you must wait for partner to lead diamonds through declarer when your K10 are over his J8.

Once you learn and absorb this play it will make defence a lot easier.


Monday, June 14

1. Gertie Barker - Jane Smith

2. Molly Taussig - Des Nash

3. Marge Way - Ed Betteto

Tuesday, June 15

1. Malcolm Moseley - Mark Stevens

2. Vivian Pereira - Bill Pollett

3. Marion Silver - Duncan Silver

Wednesday, June 16

1. Ed Betteto - Charles Hall

2. Gertie Barker - Jane Smith

3. Linda Pollett - Bill Pollett

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Published June 19, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 18, 2021 at 7:03 pm)

Absorb this play to improve your defence

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