Knowing how to ask yourselves the right questions and then answer them is the key to improve your chances on any bridge hand, be it as declarer or as defender.
I’ll give you a hand below, and a series of questions – like a riddle! Try to answer these questions by yourself. Then look at the answers, which will be presented together with the full deal.
At the end we’ll summarize a few important “Things to remember” for each problem. Enjoy!
Dealer South, East-West Vulnerable
You agreed to play standard carding with partner (for attitude: high card encourages and low card discourages; for count: high – low shows even number of cards, low – high shows odd).
Partner led the ♥J. Dummy played the ♥Q, you won with the ♥K and continued with the ♥A (partner followed with the ♥2).
- What is the meaning of partner’s lead?
- How will you continue?
- You tried a 3rd Heart but declarer ruffed and continued with a Spade to dummy’s ♠K (partner followed with the ♠3). How many tricks can you count for the defense?
- How many trumps does partner have?
- Where does the setting trick come from?
- How will you continue?
1. What is the meaning of partner’s lead?
Partner’s lead shows either top of sequence or a doubleton.
2. How will you continue?
Try a third Heart. If partner led from a doubleton – he will ruff now. If partner led from ♥J102 – his ♥10 will score a trick now.
3. You tried a third Heart but declarer ruffed and continued with a Spade to dummy’s ♠K (partner followed with the ♠3). How many tricks can you count for the defense?
Defense gets three tricks: ♥AK and the ♠A.
4. How many trumps does partner have?
One. Declarer showed 5 in the bidding.
5. Where can the setting trick come from?
As declarer has a relatively poor trump suit (QJxxx) and 2 Heart losers, it is unlikely to find him with a loser in the minor suits (for his 4♠ bid). So, in order to set this contract, you need to score your 4th Spade as the setting trick.
6. How will you continue?
Duck this trick, and the second round of trumps too! Win your ♠A only on the third round of trump and continue with your 4th Heart. Having no more trumps in dummy, declarer would need to ruff it with his last trump from hand and your trump will get promoted.
If you play another suit – Declarer will win, pull all the trumps and his hand is high. If you win the first or second round of Spades and play your fourth Heart – declarer will ruff it in dummy and keep length in hand to control the trumps. Now he is able to pull your trumps and avoid losing a trick to your fourth trump.
Things to remember
1) Think of the TIMING when you defend too, not just as declarer. Timing is the right order to play your tricks.
Here, you need to time winning your ♠A only on the 3rd round of trumps in order to keep the dummy out of the game, so that you can shorten declarer again with your 4th Heart.
2) When playing on defense: Count tricks (if possible), Count partner’s points (so that you know what to expect from him), count partner’s trumps (from the bidding), count the general distribution, think of the meaning of the lead, think where the setting trick can come from and then plan your defense and remember to plan the TIMING to set.
3) When you have long trumps, try to take control of the hand by shortening declarer – Force him to ruff in his long hand. If you manage to make him lose trump control, you take control over the hand as now you have more trumps than he has.