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ONLY PLAY HONORS ON DEFENSE WHEN IT CAN HELP YOUR SIDE

West Deals
Both Vul
J 6 5
A Q J 4 2
Q 10 8 4
A
N
W E
S
10 8 2
K 7 3
J 9 6
K 8 7 2
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 1 
3  3  4  5 1
Pass 6 2 Pass 6 
Pass Pass Pass  
  1. asking for club control
  2. shows club ace and heart ace and denies diamond ace
6  by South
Lead:  Q

This deal is Board 26 played on January 23, 2015 at South Bend Bridge Club.

On the penultimate board of the session, you are defending a spade slam against one of the better pairs in the room and partner leads the  Q. Declarer wins dummy's ace, cashes the  A and leads the  Q. You cover with the  K, declarer ruffs, ruffs a club in dummy, cashes the  J (partner discarding a club), pitches a diamond loser on dummy's  J, draws the rest of your trumps and claims 12 tricks, losing only to partner's  A.

Lamenting having this board occur against this opposing pair which you are sure will be a poor score, you start the next board, knowing there was nothing you could do to stop the slam from making.

Unfortunately, there WAS something you could to make declarer's life more difficult!

What do you know after seeing dummy?

1. Declarer has two small clubs and partner bid 3  on a 6-bagger  QJxxxx.
2. Declarer likely has solid trumps.
3. Declarer has the  A and/or the  K, otherwise partner would have led one.
4. Declarer will not be able to ruff a club and draw trumps ending in dummy because you hold three trumps, therefore making it tough to set up a long heart and cash it.

but most importantly

5. If declarer plays dummy's  A then the  Q, he started with a singleton heart, otherwise he would have taken a regular finesse through partner.

Therefore, declarer will have losers only in diamonds if declarer has a singleton heart. If declarer is missing the  A, he isn't likely to risk a losing ruffing finesse in hearts if there is any other possible line of play.

When declarer wins the opening club lead in dummy and plays two top hearts, duck that  Q as smooth as silk as if you had nothing to think about.

Let's look at the entire deal and see what might happen if declarer started with a singleton heart and you smoothly duck the  Q.

West Deals
Both Vul
J 6 5
A Q J 4 2
Q 10 8 4
A
10 9 8 6
A 7 3
Q J 10 6 5 3
N
W E
S
10 8 2
K 7 3
J 9 6
K 8 7 2
A K Q 9 7 4 3
5
K 5 2
9 4

Declarer, not wanting to be set immediately if West holds the  K, ruffs dummy's  Q, cashes the  A (discovering the 3-0 trump break), ruffs a club, ruffs a heart (looking in disgust as you drop the  K), draws trump, and leads the  K from his hand. Meanwhile, your thoughtful partner has been doing some thinking of his own and already determined declarer had  AKQ9xxx  x  Kxx  9x and that you must hold the  J or declarer would have claimed 12 tricks long ago, losing only the  A. So he is ready when the  K hits the table and he ducks it as smoothly as you ducked dummy's  Q at trick 3, knowing if he takes his ace, the two good heart tricks in dummy will be reached with the  Q. Declarer then plays a second diamond, with partner again ducking smoothly. Declarer decides to finesse dummy's  10 losing to your  J and partner's  A is the setting trick.

Great defense! (And be thankful dummy had the  10, otherwise declarer would have had little choice but to play West for the  A and would therefore still make his slam.)

There are other situations where you need to avoid playing an honor because it doesn't do your side any good.

Q 10 4
J 9 6 5
N
W E
S
K 3 2
A 8 7

Defending against a suit contract, a low card is led in this side suit and the 4 is played from dummy. Partner would not underlead an ace, and you can tell if you play the king, declarer will win and finesse the 10 on the way back for three tricks. So have the courage to play low and let declarer win a cheap trick to give your side a chance of winning a trick in this suit later.

A further example comes from Board 20 from the January 21 game at South Bend Bridge Club. Declarer is playing a spade game where declarer has drawn trumps and eliminated side suits so the defense must lead this suit:

K 10 7
Q 9 4
N
W E
S
J 8 2
A 6 5 3

The 4 was led and the 7 was played from dummy. Declarer was marked with the ace, so if the jack is played, declarer will win and finesse dummy's 10 next. The only chance is to play the 8, hoping partner holds both the queen and the 9. It's a case of "heads you win, tails you tie" if you play the 8. If you play the jack, you will never win a trick in this suit.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

1. Do not play honors on defense when it does not benefit your side.

2. Plan your defense and be ready to make a smooth duck of an honor to give declarer a chance to go wrong.

Bud Hinckley
budh9534@gmail.com

     
 
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