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 East, 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 ♠A.
- Which card will you play from your hand?
- You encouraged with the ♠10 and partner continued with the ♠3. You played your ♠K and declarer followed with the ♠Q. Where is the ♠J?
- What will you play now?
- You continued with the ♠2 and partner ruffed with the ♥2, then continued with the ♣10. You won with ♣K and declarer followed with the ♣2. How many tricks can you count for the defense?
- Where does the best chance for the setting trick come from?
- How will you continue?
1. Which card will you play from your hand?
Play a high Spade, to encourage partner to continue. There’s a good chance to find him with ♠Ax, and as you have the ♠K, you could give him a Spade ruff.
2. You encouraged with the ♠10 and partner continued with the ♠3. You played your ♠K and declarer followed with the ♠Q. Where is the ♠J?
Declarer has it. If partner had ♠J3 remaining in his hand, he would have played the ♠J first. HIGH – LOW from a remaining doubleton. Also, with ♠AJ3, partner would likely have bid 2♠ (if he passed your 1♠ opening, he could still bid 2♠ after South’s 2♥ and describe his hand nicely).
3. What will you play now?
Continue with the ♠2 and let partner ruff. That card (the ♠2) is also a suit preference telling partner to continue with the LOW suit (that would be a Club here. A high Spade would be suit preference for Diamond).
4. You continued with the ♠2 and partner ruffed with the ♥2, then continued with the ♣10. You won with ♣K and declarer followed with the ♣2. How many tricks can you count for the defense?
Five. ♠AK, one Spade ruff and ♣AK. Partner’s ♣10 denies the ♣J, which means declarer has it. So there is no risk that declarer will ruff your 2nd Club.
5. Where does the best chance for the setting trick come from?
You can try a trump promotion. The ♦K is surely with declarer, since partner passed your opening bid and you already saw him with the ♠A. He can’t possibly have the ♦K too, else he would have bid 1NT.
6. How will you continue?
Cash the ♣A and play a 4th round of Spade, hoping partner has a high Heart to help you promote your ♥Q.
Partner has to cooperate and ruff with the ♥J.
Declarer ruffs over him with the ♥K, but your ♥Q is promoted now as the setting trick.
Things to remember
1) If you lead an Ace to partner’s suit and you want to continue this suit: in case you have a REMAINING doubleton – Play high (high – low) on your next trick. That will help partner count the suit. If you play a low card – It means it is either your last card, or that you have at least 2 more cards above that.
2) When you let partner ruff, you can signal a suit preference: A low card would ask him to play back the lower suit after he ruffs. A high card would ask for the higher suit.
There are only 2 suits possible – The one that partner doesn’t have (because he just ruffed it), and the trumps. So here, Partner didn’t have anymore Spades, and Heart is the trump. This means a low Spade asks for Club, and a High Spade signals Diamond.
3) A promotion is a technique for the defense to develop a trick in the trump suit, even when it may seem, at first, that there is no trick available.
Heart is trump and it seems declarer has no losers in Heart. West, who overcalled with 2♣ leads the ♣K to East’s ♣A and gets a Club return to his ♣J.
He plays a low Club next and East ruffs with the ♥J, forcing declarer to overruff with the ♥Q. This promotes West’s ♥10.
Heart is trump and it seems declarer has no losers in Heart. East overcalled 2♣. West leads the ♣A and continues with a 2nd Club to East’s ♣J.
A 3rd Club from East forces declarer to ruff with the ♥Q (else West ruffs low), and by that promotes West’s ♥10.
4) When defense is trying to promote a trump trick, it is VERY IMPORTANT for them to cash ALL side tricks first, before playing the side suit which helps the promotion.
If they don’t do so – declarer could chose to discard a loser instead of ruffing. He will get ruffed now, but he will not lose a trick, he will just give a trick he was going to lose anyway.
In the example above it was important for you to cash the ♣A too, before playing the 4th Spade. If you don’t do so – Declarer can discard his ♣J from hand (on your 4th Spade), and ruff West’s ♥J with dummy’s ♥K.
Your ♥Q is promoted now, but your ♣A will no longer take a trick.
Declarer can continue with ♥A and another Heart, and you are endplayed: If you play a Diamond, you let declarer score his ♦J. If you play the ♣A, declarer can ruff and discard a Diamond loser on the ♣Q. If you play another Spade, you’re letting declarer ruff and discard his diamond loser.
5) At any other Vulnerability, West could consider bidding 1NT with his 5 points and this hand with good spot cards (not mandatory though – it’s a matter of style).