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February 19, 2000
4spade.gif (842 bytes) Contract - Play or Defend?

Here is an interesting hand. You are sitting East.

The auction:

West North East South
Pass 1club.gif (841 bytes) 1spade.gif (842 bytes)
3club.gif (841 bytes)* 3diamond.gif (837 bytes) Pass 3spade.gif (842 bytes)
Pass 4spade.gif (842 bytes) Pass Pass

* - This bid is pre-emptive by agreement between you and partner.

Partner leads the club.gif (841 bytes)J.

spade.gif (842 bytes)54
heart.gif (841 bytes)KQ5
diamond.gif (837 bytes)KQJ107
West club.gif (841 bytes)432 East (you)
spade.gif (842 bytes)??? spade.gif (842 bytes)986
heart.gif (841 bytes)??? heart.gif (841 bytes)AJ109
diamond.gif (837 bytes)??? diamond.gif (837 bytes)A52
club.gif (841 bytes)??? South club.gif (841 bytes)A65
spade.gif (842 bytes)???
heart.gif (841 bytes)???
diamond.gif (837 bytes)???
club.gif (841 bytes)???

Many times a bridge hand is a race to see which side can achieve the objective first. This is such a hand. First, a bit of analysis. Partner cannot have much. In fact, you probably have seen her only high card on the opening lead. Three tricks for your side appear easy. What about a fourth? What does declarer’s hand look like? Perhaps an easier way to think about the hand is to imagine how the play will proceed from declarer’s point of view. To match the bidding, declarer must have all the missing high card points and cannot have more than one or two clubs. What will happen if you win the club.gif (841 bytes)A and continue clubs?

Declarer will win, pull trump, and begin to work on the diamond suit. As long as partner does his job and sends a count signal in diamonds you can employ the holdup play and block declarer from the good diamonds in dummy. Will that be good enough?

Not really. Declarer can now just lead a heart and always get to the dummy to enjoy the diamond tricks. The heart.gif (841 bytes)KQ5 always represents an entry in hearts.

So back to the problem. What can you do about the situation?

What if you remove the heart entry from dummy before declarer needs to use it?

Win the club.gif (841 bytes)A and lead the heart.gif (841 bytes)J!

Declarer gets one heart trick (he is entitled to one) but the entry to the established diamonds will be removed. Good work.

The complete hand:

spade.gif (842 bytes)54
heart.gif (841 bytes)KQ5
diamond.gif (837 bytes)KQJ107
West club.gif (841 bytes)432 East (you)
spade.gif (842 bytes)102 spade.gif (842 bytes)986
heart.gif (841 bytes)832 heart.gif (841 bytes)AJ109
diamond.gif (837 bytes)863 diamond.gif (837 bytes)A52
club.gif (841 bytes)J10987 South club.gif (841 bytes)A65
spade.gif (842 bytes)AKQJ73
heart.gif (841 bytes)764
diamond.gif (837 bytes)94
club.gif (841 bytes)KQ

You win the club.gif (841 bytes)A and lead the heart.gif (841 bytes)J. Declarer wins the heart.gif (841 bytes)Q, pulls trump, and begins work on the diamond suit. Partner plays low-high in diamonds to indicate an odd number so you know declarer started with exactly two diamonds. You win the second diamond and continue clubs. This is the position with six tricks to go. You have two tricks (club.gif (841 bytes)A and diamond.gif (837 bytes)A). Declarer has five tricks so far (one heart, three spades, and one diamond). When you continue clubs, declarer wins but can only come to nine tricks (6 spades, 1 heart, 1 diamond, and 1 club).

spade.gif (842 bytes)
heart.gif (841 bytes)K5
diamond.gif (837 bytes)J107
West club.gif (841 bytes)4 East (you)
spade.gif (842 bytes) spade.gif (842 bytes)
heart.gif (841 bytes)83 heart.gif (841 bytes)A109
diamond.gif (837 bytes)6 diamond.gif (837 bytes)2
club.gif (841 bytes)1098 South club.gif (841 bytes)65
spade.gif (842 bytes)J73
heart.gif (841 bytes)76
diamond.gif (837 bytes)
club.gif (841 bytes)K

With a feeling of satisfaction you commend yourself on a job well done.

Let me now ask the original question. Would you rather play or defend this hand in 4spade.gif (842 bytes)?

Defend you say?

Not me! I choose to play.

Try your defensive plan and see what happens:

You win the opening lead and lead the heart.gif (841 bytes)J which I win in dummy. I pull three rounds of trump and cash the club.gif (841 bytes)K. Now I begin the diamond attack. You must duck the first round (hold up play). After winning the first diamond in dummy I trump a club and lead my last diamond. This is the situation:

spade.gif (842 bytes)
heart.gif (841 bytes)K5
diamond.gif (837 bytes)QJ10
West club.gif (841 bytes) East (you)
spade.gif (842 bytes) spade.gif (842 bytes)
heart.gif (841 bytes)83 heart.gif (841 bytes)A109
diamond.gif (837 bytes)86 diamond.gif (837 bytes)A5
club.gif (841 bytes)10 South club.gif (841 bytes)
spade.gif (842 bytes)J7
heart.gif (841 bytes)76
diamond.gif (837 bytes)9
club.gif (841 bytes)

Oops. What do you do now? You can win the diamond.gif (837 bytes)A and will be forced to play a red suit and give me my tenth trick!

The moral:

Whenever possible remove the cards from defender’s hand that allow them and easy exit. If possible, try to force the defender’s into a position where they have no choice but to help you.

Gary King

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