Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
It is often said that defence is the most difficult part of bridge. While declarer has the benefit of seeing both sides of his assets, each defender has to make do with viewing only half his partnership’s cards. The defenders must exchange information through signalling and to do that they must watch each other’s carding carefully and be on the same wavelength.
The East-West pair got a top board in this month’s hand by cooperating smoothly to beat the no trump game that was played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas. South opened the bidding with a normal 1 club and when her partner responded 1 heart she took an aggressive approach and jumped all the way to 3 no trump.
This was a far from hopeless contract as shown by the fact that at 6 of the 9 tables North-South made 10 tricks while declaring 2 or 3 no trump and at the other 2 tables North-South also had part-score pluses, so it would take something special for the East-West duo at this table to get a positive result.
West got her side off to a good start by leading her fourth best diamond and when declarer called for the 9 East played the 3, a “count” signal showing an odd number of cards in that suit. This partnership had an agreement that when they couldn’t top the card played from dummy they would attempt to show their partner how many cards were held in that suit – a high card followed by a lower one the next time the suit was played would show an even number of cards whereas low followed by higher would show the odd number.
At trick 2 declarer called for the club jack which held the trick. When South called for another club, East went in with the ace to return the diamond 4 and this time West cooperated beautifully by playing the 2. This was crucial to the defence as West knew East had another diamond and that South had the king. Since West had no quick entry to her hand she had to hope her partner did so she needed to leave the lines of communication open.
The play of the diamond 2 also informed her partner that she had originally held 5 cards in that suit as her opening lead of the 7 had been “fourth best from her longest and strongest.”
At this juncture, declarer was without recourse. She could count four club tricks and two in each of diamonds and spades but when she attempted to win a ninth trick by playing a heart to the king East pounced on it with the ace and returned his last diamond put the contract down one.
Although West and East did work together adeptly to earn their reward, the single most important defensive play in the hand was West’s refusal to win the ace of diamonds on the second playing of that suit. It may seem counter-intuitive to spurn a trick, but at times it may be the only way to ultimately gain a greater reward.
It is good strategy for partnerships to take a few moments periodically to discuss defensive signals to make sure they are both on the same track.