Main     Lesson 6E by Richard Pavlicek    

Throw-In Plays

The throw-in play is probably the most frequently missed opportunity to gain an additional trick; yet it is well within the scope of realistic play. The trouble is that most players are too eager to take a finesse. If you develop a little patience, you will find many more tricks coming your way.

This lesson is about “trumpless” throw-in plays, which means that declarer does not have a trump in each hand after the throw-in. Note, however, that trumpless throw-in plays may occur at suit contracts.

What To Look For

The most important indication of a throw-in play is a tenace holding. This is an honor combination with which declarer may gain a trick if the suit is led by an opponent.

Q 2
A 3

There is almost no chance to win the queen unless an opponent leads from the king.

4 3 2
K 5

You could win the king outright if East held the ace; but if West held it, the best hope is a throw-in play.

A J 2
K 4 3

You could win three tricks with a finesse if West held the queen; but if East held it, a throw-in play is needed.

A 3 2
K 9 4

This is not a tenace because either opponent can lead the suit safely.

How many losers?

Another important consideration is the number of tricks you are able to win. This rule is obvious if you think about it:

To benefit from a throw-in, you must have at least two losers

Why? Because with just one loser there would be nothing left to gain if you lost a trick.


Elimination Technique

The purpose of the throw-in play is to have an opponent lead a suit that will help you. Your opponent will not do this voluntarily, so you must eliminate his other options to force the desired lead.

To succeed by a throw-in play, you must remove an opponent’s safe exit cards.

Hip, hip hooray! I did a throw-in play! I’m a star! Yea for me!
I hate to be the one to tell you, Joe. But the contract was seven notrump.

5. 3 NT South

S 3 2
H 7 6 2
D Q 5 4 3
C A 9 5 2
S K J 8 6 5
H J 10 4
D J 9 6
C Q 3
TableS Q 9 7
H 9 8 5 3
D K 10 2
C J 10 6
Lead: S 6S A 10 4
D A 8 7
C K 8 7 4

After holding up the S A until the third round, it is apparent that West has led from a five-card suit. You have seven top tricks. One additional trick is likely to come from clubs, and the other must come from diamonds. Normally you would plan to lead a low diamond toward the queen — alas, this could never work because if West had the D K, he would win it and cash his remaining spades.

The best chance is to hope that East has the D K and execute a throw-in play. After winning the third spade and cashing two clubs, the key play is to eliminate the top hearts before giving up a club to East. East is able to cash his long heart — no problem, just throw a diamond from each hand — but then he must lead a diamond to give you the contract.

6. 4 S South

S 10 3
H A 8 5 3
D A 9 4
C K 8 4 2
S J 4
H Q J 10 7 4
D 7 6 3
C Q 9 6
TableS Q 9 2
H K 9 6
D J 10 8 5
C A J 7
Lead: H QS A K 8 7 6 5
H 2
D K Q 2
C 10 5 3

Assuming a 3-2 trump break, it appears that the C A must be in the West hand to succeed. Not necessarily. A good declarer can increase his chances considerably with elimination technique.

Win the H A and ruff a heart; cash two top spades; cross to dummy with the D A and ruff another heart; cash the remaining top diamonds, then exit with a spade. As it happens, East wins the top spade and exits with his last diamond — or so he thinks! Instead of ruffing, discard a club to leave East on lead; then East must lead a club to give you the C K and your contract.

7. 3 NT South

S Q J 5
H 6 5 3
D 8 7
C A Q 10 8 6
S K 2
H K Q J 9 7
D K 9 6
C J 3 2
TableS 10 9 8 4 3
H 8 4
D J 10 5 3 2
C 7
Lead: H KS A 7 6
H A 10 2
D A Q 4
C K 9 5 4

You have 8 top tricks, and it appears you will need the spade finesse or the diamond finesse to make your contract. Wrong! You don’t need any finesse because the contract is virtually assured with a throw-in play.

Duck the first heart and win the second. (Do not duck twice because you need the H 10 as a throw-in card.) West’s only safe exit cards are in clubs, so your elimination process is simple: Just cash three top clubs. Then exit with a heart! West can win his remaining hearts (not enough to set you) but then he must lead a spade or a diamond to give you a ninth trick. Thank you.


Single Suit Throw-In

To execute a throw-in play, the usual technique is to put a defender on lead in one suit to force him to lead another suit. This was the case in Examples 5-7.

Sometimes you can bring about a throw-in play within a single suit; that is, the suit used to give up the lead and the suit the opponent must return are the same. This is most common when the bidding or play indicates a suit lies badly.

If you expect a foul layout in a suit, postpone leading that suit until the end; you might gain a trick with a throw-in play.

8. 3 NT South

S 6 5 4
H A 5 4
D 7 5 4
C A K 8 6
S 9 8 2
H J 8 6
D A Q 10 3 2
C 4 2
TableS Q J 10 7
H Q 10 9 7
D 9
C J 10 9 7
Lead: D 3S A K 3
H K 3 2
D K J 8 6
C Q 5 3

After winning the D J at trick one, it is apparent that West is sitting behind you with the missing diamond honors. It would be futile to try to set up another diamond trick, so it looks like you will need an even club break to make your contract.

Not so fast. If the clubs are 3-3, they will always be 3-3. First go about the elimination technique to prepare for a potential throw-in play. At trick two duck a spade; assume a spade return; then duck a heart. The reason for ducking is to be able to cash three rounds of each major without letting an opponent cash the fourth round.

Regardless of the defense, you will next cash all of your top cards ending in the dummy. When the clubs fail to break, your only chance is to lead a diamond and duck it to West. Bingo! West has only diamonds left, so he is obliged to give you the last trick with the D K.


Squeeze Throw-In

As already stated, the crux of the throw-in play is to eliminate the safe exit cards. In Examples 5-8 this was done as your victim followed suit. Sometimes the only way to remove the exit cards is to force your opponent to discard them; that is, you must squeeze them out by leading your long suit.

This technique combines both the squeeze and throw-in plays, hence it is called a “squeeze throw-in.”

If you must squeeze out the exit cards, it is almost always necessary to have the highest card in the suit containing a tenace.

9. 4 H South

S 10 9 4 3
H 8 4 2
D K 9 3
C A 7 4
S A K J 6 5
H 3
D 10 7 4
C K Q 10 8
TableS 8 7 2
H J 9 5
D Q J 8 5
C 9 6 2
Lead: S KS Q
H A K Q 10 7 6
D A 6 2
C J 5 3

At trick two West shifts to the C K. With 9 top tricks, your best chance for 10 is to develop a throw-in play against West, and the club situation offers great prospects. The key play is to duck the C K; this retains the C A so you will hold the highest card in the tenace suit. Assume West shifts to a diamond at trick three.

Win the D A and lead all your hearts, discarding two spades and a diamond from dummy; then lead a diamond to the king. At this point dummy has S 10 and C A-7 and you have D 6 and C J 5. West also must come down to three cards: If he keeps the S A and C Q-10, you will exit with a spade (discarding your diamond) and West must lead a club into your waiting tenace.

It is important to note that you would fail if you won the C A at trick two. In that case West’s last three cards would be the S A-J and C Q — all winners.


Finesse or Throw-In

A common problem for declarer is whether to take a finesse or try a throw-in play. With no clue from the bidding or the early play, this may be a complete guess. The point is to be aware of the possibilities.

Generally, you should postpone the decision as long as possible by running your long suits. You might obtain a clue from an opponent’s discard, especially if the discard is made reluctantly after a huddle.

At the end you will have three options: Take the finesse, go for the throw-in play, or try to drop the missing honor.

10. 6 NT South

S K 10
H 6 4 2
D A K J 6 3
C 10 6 4
S J 5 4
H K 8 5
D 10 5
C Q J 9 8 7
TableS 9 8 7 6 3
H J 10 9 3
D 8 7
C 5 2
Lead: C QS A Q 2
H A Q 7
D Q 9 4 2
C A K 3

You have 11 top tricks, and the problem is whether to take the heart finesse or to attempt a throw-in play against West. It is interesting to note that your contract can always be made (assuming West holds the C J) no matter who holds the H K. This does not mean you will always succeed because, at some point, you must decide who you will play for the H K.

The proper play is to win the C A, cash three rounds of diamonds, three rounds of spades, the C K, then finish the diamonds. Dummy will be on lead at trick 11 holding H 6-4 and C 10. If you then felt that East had the H K, take the finesse.

Suppose you guess correctly that West has the H K. If his last three cards are the H K-8 and C J, you will exit with a club to endplay him. But a clever defender may keep the H K and C J-9, in which case you have to lead a heart to your ace.


© 2013 Richard Pavlicek