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Bidding separates winners from losers at highest level

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The game of bridge consists of three main parts – bidding, declarer play and defence.

As I’ve written before, at the top strata of the game the most important of these by a mile is the bidding – expert players rarely make defensive errors and even more rarely make declarer play errors, so the bidding is usually what separates the winners from the losers.

A bit like, in my opinion, the disproportionate importance of putting in golf - and yes, some of that does come from watching a virtuoso display of putting from an opponent last weekend!

As one gets further down the quality totem pole of the game, declarer play and defence are much bigger contributors to the results - if it is 25-30 per cent at the top level I would put it at 50-55 per cent at the intermediate level. This is because bidding can be learnt with some hard work, whereas play and defence really need hours, days and years at the table to show a real improvement.

Today, I’m going to talk a little bit about defence where just following a few maxims and rules will reap big dividends.

The biggest mistake intermediates make in defence is thinking they have to win all their tricks as soon as possible, and in the search for winners they just end up creating winners for declarer.

Staying passive in defence is an art, and often leads to success. I always try and force declarer to make the hand on his/her own, without any help from me or my partner, and that is often too much for most declarers to handle.

Next, get used to giving declarer what belongs to declarer. A few weeks ago, a partner of mine, who held three small hearts and was looking at QJx in dummy on his left, refused to lead a heart “in case he finessed my King”.

It is important to realise here that if I had the king it is finessable and declarer can always make that play, so a heart lead gives declarer nothing he did not already have.

Below are a few random, simple rules on defence, and if you follow them you will gain – as you get better you will spot (rare) instances where you can depart from the rules, but leave that for later!

1: Make normal leads and be consistent with what you and partner have agreed

2: Fourth best of longest and strongest against no trump

3: A lead of a low card in a suit contract usually promises an honour in that suit. If you don’t have an honour lead a high or middle card to make things clear for partner

4: Play high-low with an even number of cards when following suit and low- high with an odd number-this will tell partner how to defend

5: Agree with partner what you lead from two small (high – low?) and three small (MUD? Middle-up-down so with 864 you lead the 6 and play the 8 at the next opportunity)

6: Usually play third hand high and usually play second hand low.

7: Agree with partner that you will never underlead an Ace on opening lead against a suit contract (against NT it is fine to do that).

Let’s take a look at that last tip (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Partner gets off to the unfortunate lead of the club 2 and declarer plays low from dummy – do you play third hand high? In this case, no! You know, by agreement, that partner cannot have the Ace so playing the King is suicidal and allows declarer to make all three tricks in the suit as he will now know partner has the jack.

You should play low, safe in the knowledge that it cannot cost a trick and may gain one, as it does here – if you play low declarer now has to lose a club.

8: Always cover a single honour with an honour – as in Figure 2.

Figure 2

When declarer leads the Queen you must cover with the King, no questions asked! If you don’t, declarer repeats the finesse and makes three tricks – if you do, partner makes the third trick with the ten.

See Figure 3.

Figure 3

When declarer leads the 10 if you duck declarer can make two tricks by repeating the finesse, if you cover your side makes two tricks.

9: When declarer leads from a known double honour, do not cover the first time. See Figure 4.

Figure 4

When declarer leads the queen from dummy duck the first time- declarer now has to lose a trick, if you had covered declarer makes all three tricks

This is also important if the layout is as in Figure 5.

Figure 5

If you cover the first time declarer can make a trick in the suit – don’t cover and your side makes all three tricks.

10: Avoid giving declarer a ruff and discard at all costs.

11: The old adage “Aces are meant to take Kings” still holds true – don’t panic and fly up with an Ace every time a suit is led.

12: Lastly, and again, try and work out whether you need to get active in defence, or stay passive and let declarer do the work. You will usually need to get active if the bidding or a look at dummy tell you that declarer and dummy have a good trump fit and a good long side suit which could provide discards once trumps are drawn – in this case a bit of panic in the other two suits is called for!

I’ll be back next week with a hand. Also, if there is any specific topic you would like me to address in the column, other than your flawed putting, send me a message at davidezekiel999@gmail.com and I will try and work it in.


Monday, October 4

1. Gertie Barker - Jane Smith

2. Elizabeth McKee - Stephanie Kyme

3. Charles Hall - Bill Pollett

Tuesday, October 5

1. Marion Silver - Duncan Silver

2. Malcolm Moseley - Mark Stevens

3. Louise Payne - Katyna Rabain

Wednesday, October 6

1. Gertie Barker - Jane Smith

2. Martha Ferguson - Judy King

3. Marge Way - Charles Hall

Thursday, October 7

1. Mary Smith - Bala Srinivasan

2/3Elizabeth McKee - Linda Pollett

2/3Inger Mesna - John Rayner

4. Stephanie Kyme - Charles Hall

Friday, October 8

1. Charles Hall - John Rayner

2. Martha Ferguson - Judy King

3. Peter Donnellan - Jack Rhind

Non-Bridge Club Online Result

Friday, October 8

Jean Johnson and Frank Wharton - 1st out of 94 pairs

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Published October 09, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated October 09, 2021 at 7:46 am)

Bidding separates winners from losers at highest level

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