Seeing through cards #28

Oren Lidor
Seeing through the cards with Oren Lidor

Knowing how to ask the right questions and answer them is key to improving your chances on any bridge hand, be it as declarer or as defender.

I’ll give you a hand along with a series of questions. First, try to answer them yourself, and then take a look at the answers. 

At the end I’ll summarize the important things to remember. I hope you enjoy the challenge!

Dealer South, N-S Vulnerable

Here we have just the North and West hands, along with bidding. Answer the questions below and click the solution button when you’re ready to see how you’ve done.


Your sitting West. 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).

  1. What will you lead?
  2. You led the ♠3. Declarer won the trick in dummy with the ♠A (your partner followed with the ♠2). Declarer then played the K (your partner followed with the 9), Heart to the A (partner played the 3) and then the J, which he ruffed after you covered it with your Q (partner followed with the 7). Then declarer continued with the Q which he took with the A in hand, and then ruffed a Diamond in dummy. He continued with 4  more rounds of Spades discarding a Club on the last Spade (there are only Clubs remaining in dummy now). With 3 cards left, is it important to know what Diamonds your partner followed and which cards partner discarded?
  3. Which 3 cards are left in the declarer’s hand (and which suits)?
  4. Which 3 cards will you keep in hand?

  1. What will you lead?
    Given North bid 7♠ with confidence, missing 2 Kings and a Queen and it’s obvious your partner hasn’t much in his hand, you need to choose the most passive lead. So underleading an honor can easily contribute declarer’s 13th trick. Normally it is not recommendable to lead a singleton trump, but here it is safe, as it’s not likely your partner has any values (or length) in Spades.

  2. You led the ♠3. Declarer won the trick in dummy with the ♠A (your partner followed with the ♠2. Declarer then played the K (your partner followed with the 9), Heart to the A (partner played the 3) and then the J, which he ruffed after you covered it with your Q (partner followed with the 7). Then declarer continued with the Q which he took with the A in hand, and then ruffed a Diamond in dummy. He continued with 4 more rounds of Spades discarding a Club on the last Spade (there are only Clubs remaining in dummy now). With 3 cards left, is it important to know what Diamonds your partner followed and which cards partner discarded?
    Normally a count giving from partner can really help to know how many cards the declarer has on each suit he played (like the count giving in Heart, showing EVEN number in Hearts in his hand). But in this hand, things should be crystal clear even without partner’s carding.

  3. Which 3 cards are left in the declarer’s hand (and which suits)?
    3 Clubs! Why, you might ask!? If the declarer had more Hearts or Diamonds he would’ve ruffed then in dummy as he did with his 2nd Diamond and 3rd Heart. As he is only playing trumps, there are no more cards he can ruff!

  4. Which 3 cards will you keep in hand?
    ♣K106! That holding will guard your ♣10 as the setting trick. Cover the ♣Q with your ♣K. Declarer will win the ♣A, cash the ♣J but your ♣10 will be the setting trick at trick 13! If you don’t keep 3 Clubs, declarer’s ♣9 will make the final trick.

Things to remember


1) Though having a good hand, North could investigate a little more. Firstly, he should’ve bid 2NT (Jacoby, showing a game forcing hand with Spade support). South could’ve had a singleton Club, showing it now with a 3♣ bid and then after that showing 2 aces, North could indeed bid 7♠ counting no losers. As South bid here 4♠, showing minimum (12-14) and no short suits, North should ask aces and later ask 5NT for specific Kings. When South bids 6♠ on it (= Deny side kings), North should pass and give up bidding a grand slam.

2) Count is normally given on 2nd and 4th hand. That helps the defenders counting the declarer’s hand. On standard carding HIGH – LOW shows an EVEN amount of cards on the played suit, and LOW – HIGH shows ODD. If play UDCA (UpsideDownCArding) then it is the other way around. If playing REO, then ODD card shows odd number and EVEN card shows EVEN number (and high – low of odds shows even, and high – low of evens shows ODD, like when having 9753 or 864).

3) Frequently, on defense (and on play too), you can get lots of information on the declarer’s hand by the way he is playing his cards. As in this instance, the fact that declarer did not ruff more Diamonds and Hearts meant he has no more cards in hand in these suits. Therefore, it was useless to keep cards in them and was important to keep cards in the suit he had. Another example here shows that you can decide which card to play from the declarer’s play:


Against 3NT, your partner led the 3 (fourth best, promise at least 1 honor) and declarer played the 4 from dummy. Which card will you play from hand? The declarer’s play should help! If the declarer had the Ace, he would surely try the Q from dummy, as he can only gain by playing it, in case the K is in West. If the declarer had nothing in that suit he would also try the Q, hoping West led low from AKxxx. So, the declarer’s play tells you that he has the J in hand and meaning partner has the Ace, and you need to play the K. This is the situation:


4) Normally, try to avoid leading a singleton in trump. Having a singleton means that your partner has length, and if he also has an honor, your singleton trump lead might sell him out if he has Jxxx or Qxx. Declarer does not know the situation, but your lead will freely finesse your partner’s honor ending any guess work for the declarer. Whereas if you lead something else, it is likely the declarer won’t be able to guess the situation.

5) Defending against slam; if you don’t have a sequence but you have some honors, try to lead as passively as possible. If your partner is weak then it’s much better for the declarer to play the suits in which you have honors, rather than you playing them from your hand. If you play them, it’ll most likely give the declarer a free finesse. It’s better to make him try to finesse into your hand.