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“Second Hand Low” Is Good Advice

  by Richard Pavlicek

The bridge maxim “second hand low” is an important principle in the play of the cards. The person who plays second to a trick is better advised not to attempt to win that trick, but to play low to allow the fourth player (his partner) a chance to win it. Although this strategy is intended primarily for the defensive side, it also holds for declarer’s play from his own hand and dummy. Today’s deal, from a local duplicate game, is a good case in point.

4 S South
Both Vul
S K 3
H Q 8 6 3
D A K 6
C J 10 9 2


4 S

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

Lead: C 3
S A Q J 9 8 7 6
H 9 7 2
D 7 4 3

After South’s preemptive opening, North raised to game in the hopes that his smattering of strength would be adequate. West led the club three and declarer cleverly called for the two from dummy.

East, of course, could have forced South to ruff by inserting the five; but how was he to know? West’s lead could have been a singleton; or from a three-card suit. Not being clairvoyant, East played the ace. The rest was history.

Declarer promptly ruffed and drew two rounds of trumps ending in dummy. The club jack was led and South threw a heart (a loser on a loser) as West won the king.

The defense was now helpless. Declarer had a ruffing finesse available in clubs (dummy still had the 10-9 and East the queen), and dummy had the required entries (diamond ace and king) to develop and cash this 10th trick. All the defenders could win were one club and two heart tricks, so the contract was made.

Let’s go back to that first trick. Would you have found the play of dummy’s two? Or would you have instinctively called for the jack? Observe that declarer’s entire plan fizzles if a club honor is wasted at trick one. Remember this tactic the next time you feel the impulse to play an honor.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek