Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
There is no question that defense is the hardest part of bridge but quite often using a little logic and exchanging information with partner can pay huge dividends.
The West player in this month’s deal would have fared much better if he had used basic defensive signals and some imagination to defeat a shaky contract instead of letting it make with an overtrick.
South opened the bidding one spade in third seat and West overcalled two diamonds. North bid two spades and that closed the auction. West led the club ace and when the dummy came down he could see that the club queen was favorably placed for declarer and East confirmed this by playing the two which in standard attitude signals says: “do not continue this suit”. (Had East held a doubleton club he would have played his higher card in an attempt to get West to continue the suit and hopefully ruff the third round).
West did not appreciate the significance of his partner’s carding as he continued with the king and five of clubs creating a parking place for South’s losing heart card. At this point the contract could no longer be beaten. But West hadn’t finished with his generosity. After declarer won the club queen while pitching a low heart from his hand, he promptly drew trumps in two rounds and paused before making his next move. It appeared that West did not hold the top three diamonds as he would likely have tried to cash them right away when he could see three small in the dummy. It therefore seem highly likely that East held a singleton diamond honor. So armed with this analysis South played a small diamond from his hand on which West played his queen only to have that card swallowed by East’s singleton king. This ensured that declarer would lose only two diamonds instead of three and ended up with a very good board in duplicate scoring.
West might have done some analysis of his own and realized that if his partner did not have the king or jack of diamonds then South would hold them and would have to lose them in subsequent plays of that suit. One scenario that likely occurred at some tables was for West to switch to a low heart at trick two. This would give declarer a major headache as it would be very tempting to hope that West held the king since he overcalled vulnerable at the two level. But as the cards lay East would win the heart king, cash the diamond king and return a club to West’s king. Now the ace and queen of diamonds would ensure the first six tricks belonged to the defense for a quick one down.
Even if declarer spurns the heart finesse at trick two the defense can still prevail if they keep the lines of communication open. Suppose South takes the heart ace, draws trumps and leads a club towards the dummy, West can win, play a heart to East’s king who now cashes the diamond king and exits with a heart which South can ruff but still must lose two more diamonds for one down
Column: Bridge by the Lake
Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for more than 40 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in the Toronto area since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner Rosemarie have been wintering in Lakeside since 2006. Even after all these years of playing they find bridge to be a constant challenge and enjoy sharing some of their triumphs and mishaps with Ojo readers in each column.