Dormer on Deception

The Field of Tactics — Concealment

It may have been a mistake for Viola, in the Twelfth Night, to let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, feed on her damask cheek. But there is little doubt that concealment at the bridge table can be a most effective stratagem.

Dummy
♠ K J 2
J 7 5
A 6 3
♣ 8 74 2
 ♦Q led
 Declarer
♠ A Q 8 7 4 3
10 6
K 7
♣ A K 5

The contract is 4♠ and West leads the Q. Declarer has 10 tricks in the shape of six trumps and two ace-kings, and it is doubtful whether the average player would really entertain any serious hopes of making more.

Declarer wins the diamond opening and draws trumps. He might then consider the possibility of establishing dummy’s long club. Of course, when the defenders come in with their club trick, they will most certainly cash their hearts, holding declarer to 10 tricks, but Mr. or Mrs. Average would see no cause for concern in such an outcome, as no one could really make more. Or could they?

Declarer can give himself a much better chance by ducking the opening lead, concealing his strength in the minor suits. It may be quite hard for West to shift to a heart at this point. On any other lead South, with reasonable luck, can discard a club on the A, ruff a club and establish the long card, the opponents having no second chance.

Concealment is a recognized term for plays which aim at cloaking strength or weakness in a particular suit. Many quite ordinary combinations lend themselves to some form of concealment. Suppose you are tackling this holding:

 Dummy
A Q 10 6
 Declarer
J 9 3

If you simply lead the jack, everyone will know how many tricks you have coming. It is better to lead the three and finesse the queen. If East wins with the king, it may not be clear either to him or his partner that you hold the jack.

Similarily, in crossing over to dummy’s A-Q-J, with K-x-x in your own hand, you should on no account play the ace. Instead, lead low and “finesse” the queen or jack.

Suppose you are playing a notrump contract. You are well protected in the suit the opponents have led and are about to tackle this side suit:

 Dummy
10 7 5 4 2
 Declarer
A K 6

In general, if a trick has to be lost, you should aim to lose it early, before the opponents can gauge the situation. If you play out the A-K-x, the opponents will note that the long cards have become established and will change the line of attack if it suits their purpose. Now suppose you lead low on the first round. Not being sure that you have the A-K, the opponents may think it will take you quite a while to establish the suit. They may therefore think they can afford to carry on with the suit originally led. Similarly:

 Dummy
9 5 3
 Declarer
A Q 7 6 2

Lead low from hand on the first round. Then enter dummy and hope for a successful finesse.<?p>

Unusual forms of concealment may be practicable when outstanding strength is marked:

Dummy
♠ 5
A K 6 4 2
A 10 7 4
♣ Q 8 3
 9 led
 Declarer
♠ K Q J 7
Q 10 7 5 3
8 3
♣ 10 6
West North East South
1♠ Dbl Pass 2
All Pass

A trump is led against your heart partial. Despite the passive opening, you seem due to lose a spade, a diamond and two clubs. You can establish two spade tricks, of course, but two diamond discards from dummy will not help you and it is most unlikely that you will be permitted to discard two clubs. For if you simply dislodge the ♠A in a straightforward manner, West will no doubt realize that you have some spade tricks coming, and will attack clubs even if he has to lead from an unattractive holding.

Therefore you must try to conceal your spade strength. Win the opening lead in dummy, lead a spade and put in the seven! West may not credit you with the K-Q-J and may make a passive return. Now you can lead the ♠K, ruff West’s ace and deposit two clubs on the Q-J.

The foregoing have been examples where the declarer, risking nothing, employs concealment to give himself an extra chance. Sometimes it is right to take a distinct risk:

Dummy
♠ 10 5 4 2
10 8 4
K Q 6 3
♣ A 4
10 led
 Declarer
♠ A Q 8 3
J 7
8 4
♣ K Q J 6 3
East South West North
1 1♠ Pass 2♠
All Pass

West leads the 10 against your spade partial. The failure to lead partner’s suit is significant, of course, and for the time being you credit West with the ace. The Q loses to the ace and East returns the 2, which is covered by the eight, nine and king. After a successful spade finesse you cash the ace and West shows up with J-x doubleton.

Safe now for nine tricks, you begin to weigh the possibility of discarding two hearts from dummy before East can ruff in with the master trump. The chances do not seem very great. East, who bid 1, has become marked with at least A J x and has turned up with ♠K x x. It is most unlikely that he will follow to more than two rounds of clubs. His hand is probably something like the following, with conceivably a heart more and a diamond less:

♠ K 10 x
K Q x x
A J x x
♣ x x

If you play three rounds of clubs, discarding a heart from dummy, East will ruff and lead a heart, holding you to nine tricks. This calls for a spot of concealment.

Play out the clubs, discarding not a heart, but a diamond from dummy. You hope that East will ruff the third club and try to cash the J. Then two hearts will go on the remaining clubs.

If by unhappy chance you should find East with three clubs, rather than the doubleton that you have every right to expect, you will make only nine tricks whenyou could have made 10. For East, when he eventually ruffs the fourth club, will see your discards and will know what to do. In that case you can only echo the immortal words of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet: “Ye canna win ’em all.”

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