Defensive Puzzles


Vince Wilmont

An important aspect of defense is figuring out how the play might go, and planning your defense accordingly.

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

Opening lead: 3

In a recent sectional tournament, I defended holding the East cards against 3NT. How would you plan the defense?

Let’s look at our side’s assets first. Based on the bidding, partner won’t have more than three or four points. It appears that we will need several heart tricks to beat the hand. The bidding strongly suggests partner has five hearts given that South didn’t rebid 2. If partner’s high card is the K, we will get four or five heart tricks. What if partner’s high card is the ♣K. Declarer can keep partner off lead by making you win the defense’s club trick.

Declarer’s spades aren’t that strong. Maybe declarer will go after clubs to get some tricks. It turns out that your critical decision is at trick one. If you play the A at trick one, declarer will duck the second heart, and will have the wherewithal to keep your partner off lead.

At trick one, therefore, you should play the Q. If declarer has the K, they won’t duck out of fear that your partner started with the ace and jack. If you play the queen, when you get on lead, you can cash your side’s four heart tricks.

At the table, I played the Q. Declarer led a club to the nine and jack, and we cashed out for down one.

Here is the complete deal:

♠ K 7
10 7
K 6 5 2
♣ A Q 9 3 2
♠ 8 4 ♠ Q J 6 3
J 6 4 3 2 A Q 8
9 8 7 Q 4 3
♣ K 7 4 ♣ J 8 5
♠ A 10 9 5 2
K 9 5
A J 10
♣ 10 6