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July 5, 2001
6 Contract Declare or Defend? and The Hold-Up Play
Declare or Defend?
Sitting South as dealer you pick up the following:
The auction proceeds:
North's 3 bid was a low level cue bid (forcing) and expresing the
desire for more information. After you describe a 5-5 or 6-5 hand in spades and hearts,
partner tries Blackwood. Your 6 response shows one ace and a void in diamonds. 6 becomes the
The opening lead is the 2.
How would you estimate your chances? Would you rather be the declarer or defender? At
first glance you would probably choose defender. It appears as though you have 2 sure
losers with the A and a heart.
Declarer might prevail, however.
It is likely that East has the A from the bidding. Declarer can use a technique known as Morton's Fork Coup. Declarer plays the K from dummy covered by East with the A and trumped in hand. South travels to the dummy with a trump and leads a small club.
If East puts up the A, then South gets three club tricks and, more importantly two
discards for low hearts. The other two low hearts in the South hand go on the A and the Q. Making
If East ducks the A, then South wins the J, travels back to dummy with another trump, and discards the remaining club on the Q. Without a club loser, South finishes pulling trump and gives up one heart (hearts are 3-2 as expected). Making six!
So, you changed your mind and you want to be declarer?
East can do better.
At trick one, when declarer plays the K from dummy....
East plays low! Now, South must choose her discard at trick one. Now the Morton's Fork Coup will not work. If South discards a heart at trick one, then East holds up on the A (to capture an honor) and South cannot develop enough discards. If South discards a club at trick one, then East grabs the A when given the opportunity and waits for a heart trick.
So, you are back to choosing defender?
Declarer can always prevail by simply playing a low diamond at trick one and trumping in hand. Without being forced to choose an early discard, South proceeds to employ the Morton's Fork Coup by traveling to dummy and leading a small club. If East hops up with the A, then South has two discards from clubs and can easily develop one more by leading the a diamond honor from dummy. If East ducks the A, then South can again develop a diamond trick and discard the club and give up a heart to make the slam.
You should declare after all.
The Hold-Up Play
A hand from Issue #43 of The Bridge Companion:
Opening lead is the 6. East plays the Q on trick one. Plan the play.
Did you win the K? If so, the down you go! Who holds the A? The West hand, of course. If the spade finesse loses, your remaining diamond honor will be poorly positioned in front of the A. After you used the hold-up play by allowing the Q to win, you must play low to trick two as well! Only if you refused to play an honor on the first two tricks will you come home with nine winners. Remember the goal which is to isolate the defensive hands from one another.