Column 7D83   Main

The “Do It Yourself” Rule of Defense

  by Richard Pavlicek

Last Sunday’s deal was a mind-bender, so I’ll give you a breather this week with an easier one. Nonetheless, today’s deal brings out some important points in defensive play, the area that I find to be the weakest among most players.

4 S South
E-W Vul
S A 7 4 3
H J 5
D Q J 7
C K 10 6 4


3 S

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

Lead: H K
S Q J 10 9 8
H 10 7 3
C A Q 3 2

The bidding features a “limit major raise.” North’s jump to three spades showed 11 or 12 points and invited game; South accepted since he held more than a minimum opening bid, distribution considered.

Here is what happened at the table: West led the heart king and East played the two. West then shifted to a trump, and declarer made his contract by drawing trumps and eventually picking up the club suit with a finesse against West.

Then began the postmortem: East contended that his heart two clearly asked for a shift to a club, the lowest suit. (Note that East then could get a club ruff.) West claimed that the heart two was not a suit-preference signal but merely said, “Don’t lead another heart.” East countered that West should not have led a trump with a singleton, as it might give declarer a free finesse. This dialogue continued like a ping-pong match until an opponent intervened with, “Please! Let’s play the next hand.”

West was correct about the heart two; playing the lowest card on partner’s lead is a discouraging signal but does not ask for a specific suit. Further, East was correct about West’s trump shift, a dangerous lead since East might have held Q-x-x. Do they share the blame then? If not, who was more at fault?

East was the culprit. He knew exactly what he wanted, and he could have done it himself. The correct play is to overtake the heart king with the ace and shift to a club. This is safe because West is marked with the heart queen, and the defenders can win only two hearts anyway. Later, when East gains the lead in trumps, he will put West on lead with a heart to get his club ruff; down one. Simple, once you think of it.

Column 7D83   MainTop   The “Do It Yourself” Rule of Defense

© 1990 Richard Pavlicek