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Getting the timing right with a hold-up play

Hold-up plays in bridge, particularly in no-trump contracts, are commonplace, and in the hand below declarer showed not only how to make a hold-up play but also how to get the timing right (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

The bidding was over quickly – South opened 2NT showing 20-22 HCP and North had an easy raise to 3NT – West led a fourth-highest seven of hearts.

Declarer needed to win at least six tricks in the minor suits to make his contract. Try it before reading on.

Clearly if both minor suit finesses worked there were a lot of tricks available, if one of then worked things were probably okay for nine tricks, but if both of them failed there was clearly trouble ahead. And this declarer was good enough to plan for trouble!

After calling for a low heart from dummy, declarer took East’s jack of hearts with the king because he did not want a spade shift at trick two (a wise move, since a diabolical – but perhaps double-dummy – shift to the Queen of spades at trick two would have seen the contract fail).

Going through his options, declarer took the view that West was likely to be the danger hand with long hearts, so he decided to snuff out that danger by cashing the Ace of clubs and continuing with the Queen. After winning the trick with the King, West continued with the Queen of hearts.

Declarer let this hold as East followed with the nine and then won the heart continuation, throwing a low spade from dummy. He then continued with the Queen of diamonds and ran it once West followed with a low card.

East took the trick with the King of diamonds and, having no hearts left, exited with a spade. Declarer now rose with the Ace and claimed nine tricks: one spade, two hearts and the required six tricks in the minors. Note that declarer would still have made his contract if hearts had been four-four. All he would have lost would have been two hearts and the minor suit Kings.

Success here was all about planning and deciding early as to which defender held the ‘danger hand’ – once that decision was made it was essential that the entry to that hand was removed and in this case declarer was right on the money.

• Congratulations to Diana Diel and Stephanie Kyme, who came second out of 324 pairs in yesterday’s ACBL online game.


Monday, August 23


1. Betsy Baillie – Joyce Pearson

2. Jane Smith – Peter Donnellan

3. George Correia – Richard Hall


1. Heather Woolf – Sancia Garrison

2. Stephanie Kyme – Charles Hall

3. Aida Bostelmann – Julia Beach

Tuesday, August 24


1. Malcolm Moseley – Mark Stevens

2. Katyna Rabain – Louise Payne

3. Jean Schilling – Bill Pollett


1. Marion Silver – Duncan Silver

2/3Wenda Krupp – Diana Downs

2/3Lulu Neame – Richard Neame

Wednesday, August 25

1. Linda Pollett – Bill Pollett

2. Jane Smith – Magda Farag

3. Pat Siddle – Diana Diel

Friday, August 27

1. Wendy Gray – RichardGray

2. Lynanne Bolton – Peter Donnellan

3. Aida Bostelmann – Heather Woolf

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Published August 28, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 27, 2021 at 7:14 pm)

Getting the timing right with a hold-up play

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