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Rough Defence


from Gerry Daly

You are playing in a congress Swiss pairs and just settling down to your first set after a nice lunch when this apparently non-descript board arrives.

♠ A 8 7 3
Q 6
A J 9 6 5 2
♣ 3
♠ —


♣ —
N
WE
S
♠ Q 10 6 4 2
A 10 7 5
Q 8
♣ 8 2
♠ —


♣ —

You are Dealer at Vul vs Not. You have no problem passing. LHO opens the bidding with 3C and that ends the auction. Partner leads the spade 9. Declarer considers options and after winning the Ace plays the Heart 6 off dummy. What is your plan?

Unfortunately nobody asks you that question at the table so you have to remember to do the thinking without a prompt. What is declarer up to? There can only be one reason for playing on hearts. They won't provide any useful discards on the dummy so probably declarer has some heart losers and is embarking on a forlorn mission to ruff one in dummy. Here are all 4 hands.

East Deals
E-W Vul
♠ A 8 7 3
Q 6
A J 9 6 5 2
♣ 3
♠ K J 9
J 8 2
K 10 7 3
♣ K Q 10
N
WE
S
♠ Q 10 6 4 2
A 10 7 5
Q 8
♣ 8 2
♠ 5
K 9 4 3
4
♣ A J 9 7 6 5 4

Having identified the need to play a trump to foil declarer's plan, there is a temptation to rise with the Heart Ace at trick two. However this has the effect of providing declarer with two heart tricks to go with 5 clubs and two aces. No, the correct technique is to play second hand low and preserve the Ace to kill the Queen on the second round of hearts. Then the trump switch means declarer will lose 3 hearts and two clubs.

The defence here seems very straightforward, hardly write up material? This is what I thought when I was dummy at the table. East had done well and passed the test at trick two by playing a low heart. However when on lead after winning trick three a spade was returned!! Declarer next ruffed a heart in dummy to make contract.

I had assumed that would be 5 imps to the good guys. Provided declarer is sane and awake there is no spade loser available. At least declarer won't have one that they can get rid of ... would they have let you in with the Ace of hearts before dumping it? If a spade loser exists there is no rush to cash it. Accordingly East should attend to the urgent job of extracting that pesky 4 of clubs. However the reason we have this article is because in fact out of 14 tables that played the hand in 3C or 4C only one set of defenders held it to 8 tricks. In all but one case either a spade or diamond was led so the same problem was faced by East at tricks two and three.

So what is the lesson here? The vast majority of players in the event are capable of getting this right with a little thought. Clearly it's a matter of focus or concentration? Yes it was a lovely lunch but we must always preserve a little energy to ask that question "What is the plan here?"

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