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Communication Crucial in Notrump

  by Richard Pavlicek

Have you ever had problems discarding when defending against notrump? Of course; we all have. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, this is one of the toughest areas of card play. Typically, a defender must decide which suit to protect and which suit to abandon. The wrong decision may give declarer his contract.

On today’s deal assume you are West. Your opponents reach three notrump after a simple auction, and you lead the spade king which holds the trick. You continue with the spade jack — the proper card to enlighten partner — and South wins the ace. Declarer starts to run the diamonds, so get ready to make some discards.

3 NT SouthS 10 9 5WestNorthEastSOUTH
None VulH 10 71 NT
D A Q J 10 3Pass3 NTPassPass
C Q 7 2Pass
S K Q J 6 2TableS 7 4 3
H Q 6 3H 9 8 4 2
D 7 4D 9 2
C K 8 3C A 10 9 5
S A 8
H A K J 5
D K 8 6 5
Lead: S KC J 6 4

Your first discard is the club three and partner discards the club 10, obviously showing the ace. How do you discard on the next two diamonds? One possibility is to throw away all your clubs. No good. When declarer sees your club-king discard, he will exit with a spade. After winning your good spades, you will be endplayed and must give declarer the last three tricks in hearts.

Many players would discard one club and one heart, hoping that declarer will misguess in hearts. In fact, this defense was recommended by a leading writer in the last Contract Bridge Bulletin. It is certainly better than the first possibility, but it offers declarer a chance to make the contract by dropping your heart queen.

The correct defense is to discard two small spades, thus keeping communication with partner. Declarer remains with A-K-J in hearts and J-6-4 in clubs, and there is no way he can succeed. If he exits with a spade from dummy, he must make an embarrassing discard from hand: If a club, West leads the king and another club; if the heart jack, West leads a heart. Other variations are left to the reader.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek