Dormer on Deception

Defenders’ Obligitory Falsecards

Part 8


Some of the deceptions discussed in this series may be regarded as no more than amusing diversions, but others are an essential part of a good player’s technique. The plays discussed this month are of this kind &mdahs; you simply must make them.

The subject is deception by the defenders, but the nub of the matter may best be grasped by putting youself in the declarer’s shoes in this position:

A 9 5 4
K J 7

Let’s say you lead low from dummy and successfully finesse the jack, continuing with the king, on which West plays a low card and East the 10. Now, when you continue with the seven, West follows low again. Obviously, everything is for the best in this best of possible worlds. There is no problem, so you simply put up the ace, knowing East’s queen will fall.

Now let’s suppose that you have the same combination but the cards played by the opponents are a little different.

A 9 5 4
K J 7

Again you lead low from dummy and finesse the jack, but when you continue with the king, the queen appears from East. Now you are not on such firm ground. If the queen is an honest card you can play West for 10xxx and finesse the nine, but wouldn’t be awful if East had Q10x?

The lesson is that East, with Q10x, must drop the queen on the second round. This is an obligatory falsecard, for unless East plays it the declarer will know he still has it.

The same principle extends to all combinations held by a defender and may be expressed: When the play (or, conceivably, the bidding has marked a defender with a particular card, he should play it as soon as he can do so without cost of a trick.

This is an equally common example:

You A Q 8 4 Your Partner
K J 6 2 10 9 5
7 3

South is in a trump contract and this is a plain suit. Preparing to crossruff, South finesses the queen and cashes the ace. On the ace West must drop the king — a card he is known to hold — for until he does, declarer knows he can safely ruff small. It is not that West expects, exactly, to mesmerize declarer by dropping the king — it is simply that, until he does drop it, declarer knows that it is right there in West’s hand and can play accordingly.

The principle of playing the card you are known to hold is an especially effective one because it can produce far-reaching results with a minimum of mental effort. You do not need to work out the consequences. You need exercise the gray cells only to the extent of being sure you can afford to part with the high card.

You ♣ K J 10 8 Your Partner
♣ Q 5 3 ♣ A 9 6
♣ 7 4 2

South leads low and finesses the jack, East holding off. South enters his own hand in another suit and plays low again. Suppose that you also play low. The 10 will fetch the ace and when South regains the lead he will take two more tricks as there is nothing he can do but play to drop the queen and nine together.

Let’s go back to the second round of the suit when South leads low. As the queen is a card that you are known to hold, and it is due to fall, you should play it now! The queen is covered by the king and ace. Now declarer has to consider whether to attempt a throw-in that would force your partner to lead away from the 9x. The full deal may be something like this:

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

You lead the ♠8 and South wins, returning a club. When the jack is allowed to hold, South crosses with the K and leads a second club. If you play low, declarer will make nine tricks. If you go up with the queen, it will be covered by the king and ace. Declarer then wins the spade return. If East actually has five spades and four clubs, declarer can endplay him as long as East has two cards in both red suits. South merely cashes his red-suit winners and exits with his last spade. East is forced to win, but after taking three spade tricks, he is forced to lead away from his ♣ 9x. However, in the hand above, East will have a heart remaining to lead to his partner, and declarer will find himself scoring only +90.

In the next example you, as West, have to be at least mildly awake for otherwise you may not realize that you have a role to play:

You A J 9 8 5 3 Your Partner
10 7 4 K Q
6 2

South is at 3NT, which he can make only by bringing in this suit with the loss of only one trick. He leads low and finesses the nine, East winning with the king or queen. When declarer leads the suit for the second time, you must play the 10, as this is a card you are known to hold. Do you see what would happen if you played the 7 instead? Declarer would know you started with either 10 7 4 or K 10 7 4. In the latter case he could hold his losses to two tricks by finessing the nine, but if the contract depends on losing only one trick he will go up with the ace, dropping your partner’s remaining honor.

A similar situation:

You 7 5 3 Your Partner
A K J  9 4
Q 10 8 6 2

Declarer leads from dummy, finessing the 10. Then he re-enters dummy in another suit and leads low again. Once more you must protect your partner’s doubleton honor. If you carelessly play the nine, South will know that you started with either J 9 4 or K J 9 4. In neither case is it essential to put up the queen at this time, since the queen can be played on the next round if West shows out. By contract, if you play the jack, the card you are known to hold, when the second round is led from dummy, South’s natural play is to put on the queen, which will cost him a trick.

In none of these plays is it essential for you to now the layout of the suit. You simply follow the principle of playing the card you are known to hold — rather than an equivalent card which would give declarer free information.

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