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Winning Defense Takes Foresight

Defense is the most difficult area of bridge for many players. Besides understanding the basic techniques — leads, signals, discards, etc. — a defender must anticipate the play based on the appearance of dummy and a knowledge of declarer-play strategy. Today’s deal is from my advanced lesson program.

4 H S A K Q 2
H Q J 10
D A 8 5
C 8 7 4
Both Vul

West

Pass


North
1 NT
4 H


East
Pass
All Pass


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

Against four hearts, West leads the club king, and East plays the 10 — an attitude signal to ask for a continuation in hopes of a ruff. West next cashes the club ace and queen, on which East discards the diamond nine. Seeing this, West promptly switches to the diamond 10.

Now let’s be declarer. South has to win the rest of the tricks, so he cannot afford to duck the diamond to East, who obviously has the king. Ace! The spade suit provides two discards, but that still leaves declarer a trick short. The only chance is to run the trumps and hope for a squeeze or a defensive mistake.

After leading all of the hearts, North remains with A-K-Q-2 in spades and South has one spade and Q-7-3 in diamonds. What does East keep? Yikes; he is dead on arrival. If he discards the diamond king, South’s queen is good; otherwise, all of North’s spades are good.

Well played; but what about the defense? Could the squeeze have been avoided? Believe it. If West had shifted to a spade instead of a diamond, declarer would lack communication to execute the squeeze. (Readers should verify this by replaying the deal.) The spade suit provides a vital link to dummy.

Should West have known this? Yes, if an expert. Declarer has nine apparent tricks (five hearts, three spades, one diamond), and the only effect West’s lead could have is to ruin declarer’s entries. A diamond lead cannot do this, but a spade lead might.

Nonetheless, the burden goes to East, who should have thrown a spade on the third club. With four spades in dummy, this strongly suggests five; so West can deduce that South has a singleton, and a spade shift is more obvious. As a technical point (irrelevant here) West should shift to the spade jack in case South held a singleton 10.

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© 11-19-1989 Richard Pavlicek