Seeing through cards #24

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 North, North – South 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).

You led the ♠K and partner followed with the ♠9 (declarer played the ♠6).

  1. What is the meaning of the ♠9?
  2. How many sure tricks do you have?
  3. How many possible tricks does partner have?
  4. What will you play next?
  5. How do you plan to continue?

  1. What is the meaning of the ♠9?
    King lead asks for count, so partner signals an EVEN number of Spades, likely doubleton. With ♠QJ9 he would play the ♠Q to show the ♠J. With 4 cards in Spades he might bid 4♠ as a sacrifice at this favorable vulnerability. He can’t have a singleton either, otherwise South would have bid 1♠ with 5 cards in Spade.

  2. How many sure tricks do you have?
    Two. ♠AK.

  3. How many possible tricks does partner have?
    Two. A and Q are his possible tricks.

  4. What will you play next?
    Play the 9. Without the A in partner’s hand, there is no chance to set. If, instead, you continue with the ♠A and with a 3rd Spade for partner to ruff, declarer will simply discard his Diamond loser on the 3rd Spade and make his contract even if partner has the A and QJx, as partner will now ruff with a natural trick and the sure Diamond trick will disappear.

    So… It’s important to take this possible Diamond trick right now. But… Why not play ♠A and then Diamond? – Because partner may not have a sure Heart trick, but if he has Qx or J9x – the defense can promote a heart trick, and for that, you need to win the hand again.

  5. How do you plan to continue?
    After winning with the A, partner will continue with his 2nd Spade, and you will now continue with a 3rd Spade to promote his Q: If declarer ruffs low – partner will overruff with the Q. If declarer ruffs with the A – Partner’s Q gets promoted.

Things to remember

1) When you lead a top card and partner follows with an honor – He promises the honor below it. So with Qx or Jx partner should follow LOW (playing the Q promise the J), and when he follows with an honor next, you can conclude he has doubleton (So the ♠9 at trick 1 could have also been ♠J9 or ♠Q9 but not ♠QJ9).

2) It is recommended to agree that leading the King from AK asks partner to show COUNT in that suit, and Ace lead asks ATTITUDE (like/don’t like).

3) When you open 1♣/ and partner responds with 1/♠ – Then a jump to 4♣/ will show now a solid minor suit but also a good fit (4 cards) in partner’s suit (Suggesting Slam – a good suit to throw all the losers on). Note that with a good Club suit and no Heart fit, opener can rebid 3NT, which shows the same shape as a 3♣ rebid, but with a better hand (more points or longer suit).

4) Another possible bid by North was 3, splinter, to show a good hand with a Heart fit and singleton Diamond.

5) South didn’t accept his partner’s invitation as his hand is really bad for it: Many light points in Opponent’s suits, short in partner’s suit and only 1 point in our suits (and also minimum points and no short suits).

6) Another way of promoting a card is to refuse ruffing (You can review my previous defensive hand examples to find more examples of how to promote your trump). Sitting over declarer, you can choose to discard instead. That move can promote your card.


Heart is trump and it seems declarer has only one loser in Hearts. East overcalled 2♣.

West leads the ♣A and continues with a 2nd Club to East’s ♣J.

A 3rd Club from East promotes the 10 for West: If declarer ruffs low – West overruffs with the 10. If Declarer ruffs with the J – West discard from another suit and keeps his K102 which now guarantees 2 Heart tricks for him.

7) When defense is trying to promote a trump trick, it is VERY IMPORTANT for them to cash ALL side tricks first, before playing the suit which helps the promotion. If they don’t do so – declarer could choose to discard a loser from that suit. He will get ruffed now, but he will simply give a trick which he was going to lose anyway.

On the hand above, it is important to switch to Diamond at trick 2 and to win the A before continuing with Spades. Not doing so will allow declarer to discard his Diamond loser from dummy at trick 3 (if West plays ♠AK and 3rd Spade) and make his contract even if East holds A and QJx, as now East ruffs from a natural trick and declarer will not lose any more Hearts, nor the A, as he discarded the Diamond loser.