Column 7B43   Main

Holding Up Too Long Can Cost

  by Richard Pavlicek

Every bridge player is familiar with the holdup play at a notrump contract. With the ace in the suit led by the enemy, declarer is usually better off ducking the first round in an effort to break up the enemy communication.

But how long should declarer hold up? On many occasions it is best to hold up until the third round of the suit; but not always. Declarer must consider each situation separately and ask himself, “What is the danger on this deal?”

On today’s deal, from a local team game, declarer properly allowed East to win the first heart lead with the king. The heart jack was continued and South ducked again, probably out of habit.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S A 5 4
H 9 7 3
D K 10 9 8 6

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

Lead: H 5
S K Q 10
H A 6 4
D A 4 3
C 10 9 6 3

Everything would have been fine if hearts were continued (or if East remained on lead), but West overtook with his queen and shifted to a club. This was good defense because West had no quick entry if the hearts were established.

Now declarer had problems on another front, and his fate was sealed. He could not win nine tricks without giving up a diamond, and the defenders could then cash the setting trick.

Declarer went wrong when he ducked the second heart lead. The “danger” on this deal was a five-two heart break. If hearts were four-three, the opponents could never cash more than three heart tricks in addition to their diamond trick.

To cater to the dangerous situation, declarer should hold up only once and then take the ace on the second round. The diamond suit is then established by winning the ace and king (if West followed small on the second diamond lead, dummy’s 10 would be finessed), and conceding a diamond to East’s queen.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek