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Cover an Honor with an Honor?

  by Richard Pavlicek

Defensive card play is difficult to master, especially with regard to the problem of “covering honors.” The only perfect advice about when to cover an honor with an honor was offered by the late John Crawford: “Only when it’s right!”

In other words, there is no simple rule that will always work. But there is a general rule that works well over 90 percent of the time: Cover if the honor led is unsupported (unaccompanied by a touching card), and don’t cover if it is supported. This advice would have helped East on today’s deal.

4 S South
N-S Vul
S K J 4
H A 7 5 3
D Q J 4
C K 9 2


3 S
1 S
4 S
S 3 2
H J 9 8 6
D 10 6 2
C Q J 10 8
TableS 7 6 5
H Q 10 4
D K 8 7 5
C A 7 5

Lead: C Q
S A Q 10 9 8
H K 2
D A 9 3
C 6 4 3

South became declarer in four spades after a sound auction (North-South were playing “five-card majors” so the jump raise with three trumps was proper).

After the club-queen lead, the defenders gathered the first three tricks and then coyly shifted to a trump. Declarer drew trumps in three rounds, ending in dummy, and led the diamond queen. East, possibly a descendant of the Iron Duke, was right there with the king and South captured the ace.

The play continued with the heart king, heart ace, and a heart ruff — then South led his last trump. Curtains! Poor West had to let go a diamond in order to keep his heart winner, after which dummy discarded the losing heart. Declarer won the last two tricks with the diamond jack and nine.

Nicely played? Yes, but declarer cannot take all the credit for squeezing West. East was a contributor when he covered the diamond queen with the king. Had East played low, declarer could not have brought about the squeeze.

In this case it was not necessary for East to foresee the ending; he only had to follow the general rule. The diamond queen was supported by the jack, so he should not have covered the first time.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek