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THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST TWO TRICKS ON DEFENSE
TAKING CONTROL WHEN YOU KNOW MORE THAN PARTNER

West Deals
None Vul
A 6 2
Q 10 9 7
10 4 3
Q 9 2
K 10 9 8 5
2
Q J 9 8 5
K 7
N
W E
S
J 4 3
8 4 3
A K 7 2
8 6 4
Q 7
A K J 6 5
6
A J 10 5 3

West

North

East

South
Pass Pass Pass 1 
2 1 Dbl 2  3 
Pass 4  All pass  
  1. spades and unknown minor
4  by South
Lead:  Q

This deal is based on Board 30 of the July 8, 2014 game at South Bend Bridge Club.

THE AUCTION

West's Michaels 2  cuebid is aggressive, but acceptable as a passed hand with both sides non-vulnerable at matchpoints, the best vulnerability conditions to aggressively compete for a partscore.

Responder can use a 2  "virtual cuebid" to show an invitational or better heart raise. A 3  bid can show a good single constructive raise usually with four trumps (or three good trumps) and some shape. The double of the Michaels 2  cuebid in the auction above can show a hand that is a clear raise to 2  but not the right hand for a 3  raise.

DEFENSE

Pretend you are East and your partner's opening lead is the  Q. Should you signal with the  2 or  7? Should you overtake with the  K?

Answer: None of the above!

What do you know from the auction, dummy, and opening lead?

1. Partner's unknown minor is diamonds (declarer bid clubs and you and dummy have three clubs each) and he holds no more than one heart assuming declarer has at least five hearts. Partner's most likely shape is 5-1-5-2.

2. Declarer's likely shape is 2-5-1-5 if partner is 5-1-5-2. You know if diamonds are continued at trick 2 declarer will be ruffing. Partner does not know this.

3. IMPORTANT! Declarer threatens using his 5-card club suit to throw two spades from dummy and later ruff a spade with dummy's lone remaining trump after trumps are drawn. The only chance to stop declarer is to immediately shift to a spade and hope partner gains the lead in clubs or trumps in time to cash a second round spade trick.

4. If declarer holds  Qx doubleton, you must be the one to lead spades - partner cannot afford to lead away from the  K.

5. After a spade shift by you through declarer's  Qx, when partner next gains the lead he must try to cash a spade trick, not a diamond trick. From partner's perspective, you could be holding four spades and three diamonds which would leave declarer with a singleton spade and two diamonds and you need to sway partner to cash the spade trick.

Therefore, you must overtake partner's  Q and shift to a spade. But how can you sway partner to later try cashing a spade trick instead of a diamond trick? (Remember you could be holding four spades and three diamonds on the bidding which would leave declarer with a singleton spade and two diamonds.) There are two ways to do this:

1. Overtake the opening lead with the  A instead of the  K. This will intentionally fool partner into thinking declarer holds the  K so he will later try to cash a spade trick and will not disastrously try to cash another diamond trick.

2. When declarer later draws trumps, you can play your hearts  8-4-3 from the top down as a subtle suit preference clue to an attentive partner to focus on spades.

Overtaking the opening lead with the  A and shifting to a spade will hold declarer to ten tricks. Overtaking with the  K and shifting to a spade is almost as good, but partner will be more likely to try to cash more diamond tricks instead of a spade trick.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

1. The first two tricks are often vital for the defense, and you may need a key shift from the correct side of the table to hold declarer to the minimum possible number of tricks.

2. When you know much more about the deal than partner, don't hesitate to take control of the defense.

3. After the lead to a trick, the defenders usually play the lowest of equal cards. However, it is occasionally correct to play a higher equal card than necessary to discourage partner from leading that suit again.

4. Advanced tip - you can play your small trumps on defense from the top down when count signals are not important to get partner to focus on a higher ranking suit.

Bud Hinckley
budh9534@gmail.com
South Bend Bridge Club

     
 
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