Dormer on Deception

Deception by the Defenders

Part 9


Some people are never satisfied, and this applies especially to bridge players.

In the last article it was suggested that a defender should when possible play a card which he is known to hold. For example, on the second round of a suit the queen should be played from Q-10-x when the declarer has previously finessed the jack — rather than an equivalent card, the 10, which would leave declarer with the knowledge that the queen was still in the defender’s hand.

The logic being undeniable, a non-bridge player might be tempted to assume that this somewhat narrow aspect of human endeavor had been satisfactorily explored and resolved, and that the matter could be left there.

Not so. The fact is that a defender has to apply the grey cells to one or two other notions before he can consider himself well-versed in this particular form of deception. First, he must consider releasing a card which he is not known to hold but which declarer surely will play him for on the next round.

 West Q 10 9  East (you)
 7 6 2  K J 3
A 8 5 4

South, at a notrump contract, is not over-endowed with entries to dummy, so he tackles the suit by leading low from his own hand and finessing the nine. East should see that if he wins with the jack, the king will surely be a dead duck — South will enter dummy and finesse against it on the next round. Therefore East should win the first trick with the king. If there is any justice, declarer will repeat the “proven” finesse on the second round against the jack West is presumed to hold.

It should not be too difficult for East to rise to the occasion in the layout described — assuming, of course, that he can place declarer with the ace.

In the next example, you are West. It will still pay to follow the principle of releasing a card the declarer is likely to play you for on the next round.

 West (you) A 10 7 3  East
 K J 5 2  8 4
Q 9 6

The declarer tackles this suit in the natural way, leading a low card from dummy and finessing the nine. Suppose you win the jack. In that case South will lead the queen on the next round, making three tricks whether you cover or not.

Observe what happens if you win the first trick with the king. Placing East with the jack, declarer will cash first the queen and then the ace, holding himself to two tricks.

Of course, you may not know when the suit is first led and the nine finessed that South has the queen. But if East has the queen it will not matter whether you win with the king or the jack.

A defender also should consider releasing a high card which is due to fall on the next round. This may play on declarer’s nerves in any number of situations. Suppose the trump suit is distributed like this:

 West A 9 5 3  East (you)
10 7 2  Q 6
K J 8 4

When the ace of trumps is led from dummy, East should drop the queen. The declarer, thinking that the trumps are 4-1, may now change his strategy completely.

There are many situations where a defender with the doubleton queen of trumps can judge that it cannot cost to play it on the first round. There are also some situations where the queen should be played at notrump, as here:

 West (you) A K J 6 5 3  East
 Q 7 10 9 4
8 2

South, developing this suit at notrump, leads low. If West plays low South will finesse the jack and make six tricks. If West goes in with the queen, however, there are two reasons why South might duck. First, he may have no outside entry to dummy, in which case a duck will protect him against a 4-1 break. Secondly, South may want to keep East out of the lead.

Now suppose West has Q-x-x instead of Q-x. To play the queen now requires more nerve, as it may be South’s intention to play for the drop. But the queen is still an excellent shot if South seems more likely to have a doubleton than a tripleton.

In the same way, West with K-x may on occasion play the king on the first round when declarer leads toward dummy’s A Q J x x x. Such a play is not made in vacuo, of course, but with an appreciation of the overall strategy. It would be foolish to play the king prematurely if declarer is troubled for entries to his own hand, as you would be saving him the problem of re-entering for a second finesse. But the king can be a very effective play if declarer has many entries to his own hand but no outside entry to dummy.

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