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September 26, 1999
3NT - Declare or Defend?
Another interesting hand I recently came across that deals with the hold up play, card combinations, and entry preservation. Look at the hand and consider the contract.
Would you rather be declarer or defender? Which one stands a better chance for success?
Opening lead: J
You probably chose declarer.
South, declarer, has 7 sure winners ( 2 spades, 3 hearts, and 2 clubs). South will need to develop two additional winners from the diamond suit. Since the A may well be needed as an entry to the North hand, declarer takes care to win the opening lead in the South hand.
No problem, you say. South leads a diamond to the K and East wins the A.
No matter what East does now, South can make the hand. Win any return (if a heart, then win in the South hand) and lead a damond to the Q. South now gives up a diamond to the J and takes the rest of the tricks making five (2 spades, 3 hearts, 4 diamonds, and 2 clubs).
Not so fast. Perhaps defender is a better choice.
East is a better player than you think. East simply holds up on the A and lets your K win the first diamond trick. East now holds the A and J behind the Q and 10. If you continue to work on diamonds you will be one entry short. You can established the needed diamond tricks, but cannot reach dummy to cash them.
You will need two side entries and only have one. This hold up play by East limits you to eight tricks and down one!
So defender is your choice, right?
Wrong. You should declare.
Declarer can prevail. Win the heart lead in the South hand and attack diamonds by leading small to the 10. East can win the J (ducking just costs the defense a trick), but now you can easily establish the diamonds and get back to dummy to enjoy them. This play will work irrespective of the location of the A and J.