What would you do if you arrived at home and found that your key would not open the front door? Youd try the back door. (If that didnt work, you might find your bags packed on the front lawn.) The same is true of a good defensive bridge player. If it is apparent that straightforward defense will not set the contract, he looks for an indirect route. Maybe it will work; maybe it wont. But at least it is better than waiting all day at the front door.
Todays deal, from a recent rubber bridge game, resulted in a routine four-heart contract. South opened one heart, North bid his strong diamond suit, and South rebid two hearts showing a six-card suit. This allowed North to raise, and South continued to game. As the cards lie, the contract appears unbeatable it is if you waste your time at the front door, but watch how it dissolves with this backdoor defense.
West led the spade queen; East won the ace and paused to think about the defense. Besides the spade ace and heart ace, two more tricks were required to defeat four hearts. South was sure to hold the spade king (from Wests lead), almost sure to have the club ace (from the bidding), and likely to have the king-queen of hearts. The best hope was to find West with the club queen. But would it do any good to lead clubs? No; declarer would duck the trick to Wests queen, then dummys jack-10 would trap the king.
Since a direct attack appeared futile, East looked around to the back door and led a diamond. Dont laugh; this was a great play. Declarer won the 10, and led a low heart to dummys jack. East made another fine play he ducked. Declarer continued with a heart to Easts ace; then came the killer another diamond. West still held a trump, so declarer could not win any more diamond tricks. Eventually, the defenders would win two club tricks; down one.
Defensive tip: If declarer leads the club jack from dummy, East should not cover with the king.
© 1989 Richard Pavlicek