Step by step in defense

Step by Step

Dangerous temptation

Teams – Dealer South, None Vul.

You hold the following hand as West:


And the auction went like this:

  • What do you decide to lead?

The fact that you hold three trumps with the Ace (and thus the certainty that you’ll get back on lead later) and your limited number of points (therefore East should have more than zero) must encourage you to lead your singleton Diamond

Contract: 4♥.
Lead: ♦2.

And the dummy comes down. Before the play starts.

  • Do you have any idea of the distribution and strength of declarer’s hand?

Yes. In order to speak again over 2♥ and invite game, he must hold:

Six Hearts and four Diamonds.
Around 15-16HCP, which leaves around 10HCP for your partner.

This is the first trick: Diamond 2, the 3 from dummy, the 8 from East and the Ace from declarer. The latter continues with the King of Hearts.

  • Do you cover?

No. By ducking the trump Ace, you’ll deprive South of the possibility of entering dummy with the Jack of Hearts – an entry that he will no doubt need to get to dummy later: King of Hearts, the 5, 4 and 2. South continues with the trump 3.

  • Do you now play the Ace?

Yes, you want to keep a small trump. So, you jump up with the Ace and you see the 7 appear from partner.

  • Do you switch to a Spade or to a Club?

On the one hand, the Q1087 holding in Spades is rather dissuasive and, on the other hand, if your partner had held the Ace of Spades, he would certainly have played a preferential 7 of Hearts on the first round. You therefore switch to the 10 of Clubs for the 6 in dummy and the King from East, who now plays the Queen of Diamonds for declarer’s 5.

  • Do you ruff with your last trump?

No. Don’t give in to the urge to ruff this, as you would be doing it “on thin air” and, instead of winning a trick “that falls from the sky”, you would be presenting declarer his contract on a silver platter.

  • For which reason?

Play it through in your head. You know that South now has the stiff Queen of Clubs and you have to take it that – for the moment – the suit is blocked:

North and South

› If you ruff, the King of Diamonds entry will still be there. South will get back on lead on the next round, unblock the Queen of Clubs, get to dummy with a Diamond and discard the Diamond loser on the Club Ace.

› But if you discard a small Club, the King of Diamonds will disappear and declarer will only have nine winners with five Hearts, two Diamonds and the two black Aces, and he will be forced to lose a Heart, a Club and… two Diamonds for one down.

The principle:

You have the opportunity of getting a ruff with a small trump without value? Go for it if you ruff one of declarer’s winners. But if it would be “on thin air”, it will most of the time be a bad initiative to take. So, change your initial plan and discard a loser to, for example, deprive declarer of a vital entry.

Full game

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