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Force declarer to make the right plays

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As we all know, the game of bridge consists of three main parts — bidding, declarer play and defence.

At the upper reaches of the game bidding is, by far, the most important component for success, because most expert and world-class players will rarely make a defensive error and even more rarely make a declarer play error.

Not that experts ever make errors — experts just “take a wrong view”!

At the club level, however, the standard of declarer play and defence varies greatly, especially the defence, and this becomes a big contributor to results, so I will talk a bit about that today.

For me the biggest factor in defence is one's approach to it — you need to stay calm, be patient and wait for your tricks and, as much as possible, force declarer to make the right plays instead of handing the contract to her on a plate.

And weak defenders do that all the time — they are so anxious to collect their Aces and Kings that before you know it they have given declarer a clear run to the contract.

Take a look at this Club suit for example:


J973 A106


West leads the 3 of Clubs and declarer plays low from dummy — it is 100 per cent guaranteed that the intermediate player wins the Ace and continues a Club giving declarer two tricks when he is only entitled to one.

Notice that if declarer has to play this suit himself, the defence cannot go wrong and will always win two tricks.

The expert defender here will play the 10 of Clubs and wait for two further Club tricks.



Q1073 AJ6


When West leads the 3 of Clubs, East must play the Jack and then exit in another suit and wait for the other tricks.

Key to all of this is the need for an understanding between the defenders on a few things;

a, Agree with partner that you will never lead away from an Ace at trick one against a suit contract.

Against no trump you often will, and you may during a hand in a suit contract, but never on opening lead.

So take a look at this:


J953 K87


West makes the unfortunate lead of a low Club and declarer plays low from dummy — since East knows that declarer must have the Ace, he can play the 7 which restricts declarer to two tricks — if he plays the King declarer has three tricks as West is marked with the Jack

b, A lead of a low card should usually promise an honour in that suit. This allows partner to judge the defence better. So what should you lead without an honour if you are leading that suit?

With three cards and no honour, I suggest “MUD” — middle/up/down — so with 973 you would lead the 7 and then play the 9 on the next round.

With a doubleton, lead High-Low, ie, with 93 lead the 9.

With four low cards I would lead second-best — with 9743 lead the 7 which already warns partner that you don't have an honour in that suit.

c, If you lead an Ace at trick one it usually promises the King of that suit — leading unsupported Aces is not usually a winning strategy at bridge. If you have AK doubleton show that by leading the King first and then the Ace

The other area that newer defenders get wrong is when to cover an honour played by declarer or dummy.

The rule is fairly simple (you can figure out the time to depart later in your bridge life) and that is to always cover an honour, unless you have some other information.

Let's look at:


10743 K62


When declarer leads the Jack from the board you must play the King — if you do declarer has only two tricks, if you don't he has three.

If declarer has AQ10 it makes no difference — give to declarer what belongs to her otherwise you may end up costing yourself a lot of tricks

What if there are two honours in dummy? The rule is that you don't cover the first one but cover the second.


J973 A106


Why do you not cover the first time? Because the suit might look like this


J109 K62


If you cover you win the trick, but you give declarer a trick later — if you don't your side gets three tricks.

So, a lot to think about there, but if you follow the above it will gain you a lot of tricks in defence.

So lets take a look at this hand.

South opens one Spade and North raises to four Spades — partner leads the 7 of Diamonds — over to you.

See figure 7

This is one of those nightmare hands where looking at that ominous Club suit in dummy you know that there will be no second chance.

You have to make a decision on the lead and in the end you conclude that it is a passive lead and partner does not have the queen.

Having decided this, the play of the Jack seems dangerous, so you decide to give up on the Diamond suit and attack Hearts.

So you win the Diamond and before you lazily lead a low Heart, you again realise that you need three quick tricks so you bravely lead the Queen. Bingo, Jackpot. well done!

Declarer now goes one down on the only defence that beats the hand, no other!

And all because you made a judgment on the Diamond lead and then stayed focused in seeing what you needed in the heart suit — I'm proud of you!

Over to you: South opens 1 Spade and North raises to 4 Spades - partner leads the 7 of diamonds

Friday 3 August

1, Misha Novakovic-Margie Way

2, Judy Bussell-Stephanie Kyme

3, Gertie Barker-Martha Ferguson

4, Patricia Colmet-Heather Woolf

Saturday 4 August

1, George Correia-Inger Mesna

2, Judy Kitson-Gill Butterfield

3, Linda Abend-Pat Cerra

Monday 6 August

1, Wenda Krupp-Alan Douglas

2, Diana Diel-Charles Hall

3, Lynanne Bolton-Peter Donnellan

4, Gill Gray-Pat Siddle

Tuesday 7 August

1, Marion-Duncan Silver

2, Joann-Mike Dawson

3, Katyna Rabain-Louise Payne

Wednesday 8 August

1, Gertie Barker-Jane Smith

2, Martha Ferguson-Judy King

3, Neil Gilbertson-James Mulderig

Thursday 9 August

1, Lynanne Bolton-Peter Donnellan

2, George Correia-Betsy Baillie

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Published August 08, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 08, 2020 at 9:25 am)

Force declarer to make the right plays

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