Main   Quiz 7H20 by Richard Pavlicek  

The Holdup Play?

As South, you are declarer in 3 NT on each deal with no enemy bidding. Decide whether or not you will use the holdup play, and if so, on which round you will take your ace.

1. 3 NT South

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


Do not hold up. West’s lead of the H 3 indicates only a four-card suit (with five he would lead his fourth-best card) in which case your contract is assured by winning the H A and taking the club finesse. Even if the finesse loses, the opponents can take only four tricks (one club and three hearts). The danger in holding up is that East might shift to a diamond — especially attractive for East if he has the C K as an entry. You cannot afford an attack on two fronts, so take your H A immediately.

2. 3 NT South

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


Do not hold up. The purpose of a holdup is to deprive the player with the long suit of an entry. In this case you are obliged to try the diamond finesse which, if it loses, will give West an entry anyway. Winning the first spade lead may block the run of the spade suit. West in fact has the D K and his spades are S Q-9-7-6-5, and East has S K-J doubleton. By winning the S A, crossing to dummy and taking the diamond finesse, you will succeed. Notice what would happen if you held up.

3. 3 NT South

S 3 2
H A 4
D A 8 7 5 4 3
C 9 7 6
Lead: S QTableEast plays S 7
S A 8 6
H K 6 3 2
C A K 5 3


Do not hold up. (You did notice the question mark in the quiz title, didn’t you?) Your best chance to make this contract is to set up the diamond suit and hope the enemy spades break 4-4. Win the S A and lead the D Q — if West covers, you must let him win the trick. The danger in ducking the first trick is a heart shift — not unlikely since the H A is a crucial entry to dummy’s long suit. You would win the H K first, of course; but when you lose to the D K, another heart lead would set you. Try it!


© 2013 Richard Pavlicek