When should you hold up and when should you win tricks as declarer?
When can it be dangerous to duck?
Experience is a good teacher when it comes to making a decision about winning a trick or ducking. Here is an example of a holdup by declarer.
South opened 1♣, North responded 1♥, and South rebid 1NT. He was not happy with his ♠9 5 3, but rebidding 1NT was not terrible given the alternative was rebidding a five–card club suit. North raised to game, ending a brief sequence. West led the ♠2.
South noted that he had eight sure tricks and that if he held up on the spades, he could take a diamond finesse into East, who would not have a spade to return.
Here is how the play went. South ducked the opening lead and East won the ♠J. East continued with the ♠Q. South knew West was leading fourth best, so West rated to have four spades and East three. South let the queen hold, too. East continued with the ♠6 and South won in dummy.
South now followed his expected line of play by cashing five clubs and then leading the ♦Q for a finesse. East took the ♦K and played a heart. South wasn’t about to finesse. If it lost, he would lose another spade and be down one. Instead, South cashed his nine tricks and made 3NT.
“Very nice,” said North. Was it? Here is the full deal:
How many mistakes can you see? Be sure to count any defensive mistakes you notice as well as declarer’s mistakes.
South erred at trick one. When he played low from dummy, he opened up the chance that East would return a heart instead of a spade. South also erred at trick two. When he ducked the ♠Q, he gave East another chance to lead hearts. As you can see from the diagram, a heart switch at trick one or at trick two would be fatal to 3NT.
East had two chances to switch to a heart and failed on both. East’s mistakes are slightly forgivable. South’s mistakes were serious.
This deal shows one of the important habits you should develop as you gain experience. As declarer, when you get the opening lead, you should find out what kind of leads your opponents are using.
If they lead a low card, ask your right-hand opponent if they are using fourth–best leads or if they have some other agreement. If they lead a king, ask if they play ace or king from ace-king. If they lead a jack, 10 or 9, ask what their lead agreements are. You may learn something especially useful. If they lead a jack, for instance, you will learn if the opening leader denies a higher honor. This can be useful information.
Just ask after the opening lead, even before you see dummy, “What are your lead agreements?”
On the example given, if you ask this question, East will say that their leads are fourth best. You know West can have only four spades if the 2 is his fourth best, which means that you do not have to worry about the spade suit.
Take the ace at trick one and play on clubs, then finesse in diamonds, making nine or 10 tricks.