Here we see some deceptive and downright sneaky defensive maneuvers.
Related Play Problems Play Problem 9
Related Extracts from Past Wednesday Games
Against East’s 4♠, South leads a high Club, and let’s suppose that she continues with a second high Club, hoping that a forcing defense is the way to go. Dummy ruffs that and the ♠A is cashed, South following with the Ten. Is this a Restricted Choice situation? Yes, it is, or rather it is if all your opponents would promise not to be devious. But a sneaky South would also play an honor when holding ♠JTx, it’s a classic false-carding situation. So in this case it pays to know your opponents! 11 tricks if South is a straight arrow, 10 tricks if South is known to be a tricky devil.
Both North and South had a little extra and slam is a pretty good (but as it happens, unlucky) proposition. Against 4♠ (or 6♠) East leads his singleton Club, won in Dummy. Declarer’s plan now is to unblock the ♦K, draw three rounds of trumps (ending in Dummy), cash the ♦A (pitching a Club), and finesse in Hearts. On a good day that will bring in 13 tricks.
However, the Heart finesse loses and the Spades are 4-1, so it looks like only 11 tricks at most tables. But there is a wrinkle in the play. When Declarer lays down the ♠A and West plays the Jack, should Declarer finesse against the ♠T? The pros and cons:
- Finessing will be right if the Jack is singleton. Of course, the Jack could also be from JT doubleton, but the Principle of Restricted Choice tells us that finessing is the percentage play.
- However, West might be a tricky fellow, in which case you can be sure that he would play the Jack (or the Ten) when holding JTx. This is an “obligatory false card”, so-called because it is the only play from that holding which gives Declarer a chance to go wrong.
So, what should Declarer do? If she believes
West to be a
North can beat 4♥ by leading the ♣A, giving South a ruff (on the second round she’ll lead the Queen as suit preference, of course), then over to the ♠A for a second ruff. Leading the ♣A is not obvious, especially when the ♣K is almost certainly with West. Then again, what else is North supposed to lead? The ♠A or the ♦Q are not appealing (if we really had to lead a Diamond we might try the tricky Ten!), and we all know the perils of leading a singleton trump. Well done those North players who found the ♣A opening lead!
Suppose, instead, that North leads her trump. Now Declarer can make 12 tricks: win the ♥A, cash ♥Q, cross to the ♦K, draw trumps, play the Diamonds from the top (pitching Clubs), and concede a Spade. However, North might find a stunning deceptive play! On the first round of Diamonds she might try dropping the Queen! Now Declarer will probably finesse the Ten on the next round of Diamonds, holding himself to 10 tricks. Actually, even if North plays it straight with the ♦T on the first round, Declarer should probably finesse against the Queen, it’s the safe way to make the contract. But the false-card is much more fun, at least for North.
North’s sequence strongly suggests 5-6 distribution, eventually N-S stumble into 5♦ and East leads a low Club won by West’s King. Next, West cashes the ♥K, and exits safely with a Spade. Now this contract makes if Declarer can guess the Diamonds. Will she? She surely should. The play at Trick 1 placed the ♣AK with West, and at Trick 2 he also became marked with ♥AK. That’s 14 HCP and it is safe for Declarer conclude that West does not have ♦Qx, that would give him 16 HCP and a 1NT opening. But he might have the singleton ♦Q, so Declarer cashes the ♦A in her hand, and then confidently runs the ♦J around. Nicely counted for 11 tricks!
Now, let’s try again, this time with more subtle defense. East leads a Club, as before, but this time West wins with the Ace! Tricky play, he’s trying to create the illusion of someone without the ♣K. Next, West cashes the ♥K, and, being a dastardly fellow (and trusting Declarer to be 5-6), he reverts to Clubs. A low Club! Declarer ruffs, of course, and will conclude that West does not have the ♣K and furthermore that West needs the ♦Q for his opening bid. So, there’s no reason to finesse against East and Declarer goes down one! Devious stuff, eh?
East doesn’t have a ruffing value but uses Stayman anyway, after all it may be the case that West has a ruffing value in one of those appallingly weak minor suits. But, no, 3NT is the final destination and we suppose that North will lead a Heart, though not with any enthusiasm. The theoretical way to play the Diamonds is to lead low (not the Ten) from Dummy, protecting against South holding the singleton Queen. But there are insufficient entries for such niceties, so Dummy’s Ten is run around to North’s Queen. A Club shift at this point holds Declarer to 9 tricks but North might try a Spade shift instead. That will be 10 tricks.
How was North to know to shift to a Club? It wasn’t obvious, nor was it obvious to South that she wanted a Club and not a Spade (imagine Declarer with the ♣9). But, let’s see what happens if North fiendishly wins that first Diamond with the Ace! Now, if North guesses to shift to a Spade Ten, and if (when Dummy plays low) South ducks his King, then Declarer will hold himself to 9 tricks. He’ll unblock the ♥A, lose the Spade finesse, win the ♠A, cash Dummy’s ♥Q, and prepare to take the “proven” Diamond finesse. When South shows out Declarer will know that he has been had as North will cash her Heart winner when in with the ♦Q. 9 tricks only.
The contract is 5♠ and you are defending in the East position. Are you in the mood for something brilliant?
Heart lead ruffed by Declarer
Cash ♠A and ♠K
Cross to the ♠Q
Low Diamond, East playing the Queen, Declarer winning the Ace
Low Diamond to Dummy’s Ten and East fiendishly ducks!
Declarer has been careless with her entries and, as a result, that fine ducking play by East has shut out the Diamonds. Declarer has only one entry back to hand and is unable to knock out East’s Diamond honor and then get back to enjoy the good Diamonds. But, as it happens, Declarer wriggles out by ruffing a Heart, and playing on Clubs. The remarkably fortunate situation in that suit allows her to end up with 5 trumps, 2 Heart ruffs, 2 Diamond and 2 Clubs. Her only losers are a Club and a Heart.
But after the opening Heart lead, Declarer did not have to rely on mega-luck in Clubs to make eleven tricks. With better timing she could have made twelve tricks, with no luck in Clubs required!
Heart lead ruffed by Declarer
Cross to the ♠Q
Low Diamond, East playing the Queen, Declarer winning the Ace
Yes, it’s the same line as before, except that Declarer delayed drawing that third round of trumps, keeping a high Spade in her hand as an extra entry, and forestalling East’s crafty Diamond duck. This line brings home 12 tricks … it takes an opening Club lead to hold Declarer to 11 tricks.
Obligatory False Card
In the first line of play, where Declarer erred by drawing the third round of trumps prematurely, she was forced to use the last entry in her hand to play on Clubs. The suit will only be good for two tricks if West holds a doubleton KQ, KT or QT. Declarer’s luck is in this time, but a wily West will play the ♣Q on the first round! A gullible Declarer, when playing to the second round, will now have to guess whether West started with QT or KQ. But if West plays the Ten on the first round there is no guess. Declarer should figure it out anyway (East needs the ♣K for his opening bid), but that’s no excuse for East not to put Declarer to the test!
Against 4♥ East leads a Club and you ruff. It would be nice if you could get to Dummy twice and take both the red suit finesses, but that may not be possible, as the ♠K is likely to be with West. You run the ♠J at Trick 2, hoping that East unexpectedly has the King or else that West will make the mistake of winning his King on the first round. But West cleverly ducks, and you repeat the finesse, this time losing to the King. Back comes a Spade to the Ace and finally you are on the board.
You lead a Heart next, and the King pops up from East. Now there’s another Dummy entry! You take your Ace and lead a low Heart towards the Tx. Sooner or later, that gets you to the board for a chance to run the ♦T. When that finesse works, and when the suit is 3-3, you have 11 tricks. That was sensibly played. Firstly, you gave East a chance to go wrong by running the ♠J. Secondly, you realized there was a trump entry when East’s ♥K appeared.
Defensive Fantasy: Imagine you are West, holding basically the same hand, but with ♥KJ doubleton. If that is the case then it looks as if Declarer can score no fewer than 12 tricks. The play goes the same as before, and when a Heart is led from the board you play the King! Great false-card! Declarer will be hoodwinked into leading towards Dummy’s ♥T and your Jack wins. You have now swindled Declarer out of a trump trick and held him to 11 tricks. And, if Declarer has carelessly played both his tiny trumps (one for the Club ruff, the other when leading to the Heart Ten) then there’s no entry for the Diamond finesse and there are only 10 tricks!
North leads the Spade Four to South’s King and back comes a Spade to the Ace and a third Spade to Declarer’s Queen. Declarer has 8 tricks and the 9th will have to come from a successful Diamond guess. The Hearts are run and North must be careful to pitch two Diamonds and just one Club. Now the moment of truth has arrived and Declarer leads a Diamond towards his KJ. Here’s what might happen:
- The initial thought might be to play the King, trying to keep North (who appears to have the 13th Spade) off lead. But that’s false logic, all that really counts here is to guess Diamonds right for the 9th trick.
- A more thoughtful Declarer might ask himself “Why didn't North duck the second round of Spades?” The answer is that North has an entry and doesn’t need to duck the Spade. Ergo, she has the ♦A! That being so, Declarer will finesse the ♦J and make his contract.
- But we are entering the realms of bluff and double-bluff here. If North is of a devious disposition she might duck the second Spade anyway, even though there is no need to do so! This might prompt our thoughtful Declarer to place the ♦A with South, in which case the right play would be to hop up with the King (for down one!).
Nothing to the auction. In the play, just as in the previous hand, a minor side-suit is AQ doubleton on-side in the South hand, and an unexpectedly large number of tricks materialize for E-W. Playing in his Heart part-score, the fortunate lie of the cards means that West need only lose 3 tricks in the side-suits. But what about the trump suit? With X-Ray vision there are no trump losers, of course, but try to forget about the actual hand and consider your line of play when you lead a trump towards Dummy’s Ace. Here are the 3 cases:
Case A: North plays a low card
Case B: North plays the Ten
Case C: North plays the Queen.
Case A is straightforward enough, you’ll finesse against the Queen on the second round of trumps.
Case B is not so tough, either. Does North have Ten singleton? Or QT doubleton? Well, if it’s Ten singleton, that means that South has Qxxx, and the Queen cannot be picked up. So, there’s something to be said for playing the King on the second round of the suit, hoping for the QT doubleton case.
Case C seems like a no-brainer, does it not? Once the Queen has dropped, how could you not finesse against the Ten on the second round of the suit?
Now, if you can trust your opponents to play straight down the middle, the above analysis is irrefutable. But opponents have been known to be quite devious, sometimes they try to trick us. No, really, they do, we’ve seen it happen. For example, if, as North, you hold QT doubleton of trumps, knowing (almost for sure) that Declarer has a 6-2 fit, how can it be wrong to drop the Queen on the first round? Imagine your glee when your T♥ wins that second Heart trick! Yes, you'll need Declarer to have the Nine to get away with this one.
Even better, picture yourself as North, and you hold T3 in the trump suit. Declarer leads a trump and you play the Ten! This play presents a losing option to Declarer, he may decide to play you for QT doubleton, much to his chagrin!
Aah, yes … false-carding! … one of the game’s great pleasures! But, in the above situation, as Declarer, don’t give your opponent too much credit for false-carding unless you know him well … but, do, by all means, next time this situation comes up, remember as North to play the Ten from Tx, and the Queen from QT. Can’t hurt, may help. Well, let’s amend that to “won’t usually hurt” … it would provide much mirth at the table if you craftily played the Queen from QT (under Dummy’s Ace), only to find later that Partner held Kxx, and that Declarer had based his Weak Two on Jxxxxx! If this happens, then hopefully your Partner has a good sense of the ridiculous.
With West on lead, the J♠ seems like a reasonable way to kick things off, and this will be 10 tricks with careful play … the K♠ provides a pitch for the Diamond loser, and correct play in Hearts holds the losers in that suit to just two.
A Tricky False-Card:
What exactly is the “correct play in Hearts”? We would run the 8-spot around, and if this loses to the Queen or Jack, we’d finesse the Ten on the second round … this line gains whenever East has the Nine and either or both of the Queen and Jack. Of course, if the Nine is with West and it wins the first trick, then Declarer must hope that the A♥ is onside. However, this line of play opens West up to the possibility of a delicious false-card from West. Consider this layout:
North leads the 8♥, low from East and South, and West produces the Queen (or Jack)! Now, the “correct play” will result in 3 Hearts losers when Declarer takes a second Heart finesse. Had West prosaically won the first round with the Nine, Declarer would have no option but to play East for the Ace.
Against 4♥, North leads the A♣, then the K♣, and that should be it for the defense. When Declarer gets in, he’ll lay down the A♥ first, catering for a 4-0 split either way. His careful play pays dividends when South shows out of trumps and the J♥ can be picked up. Making 11 tricks.
Not so fast! South has the chance for a delicious swindle! Look at what might happen if South plays the Club Seven at Trick One. Then on the second round of Clubs South completes her fake high-low, and North perseveres with a third round. Who could blame Declarer if he fell for this hook, line and sinker? He’ll probably ruff high, wouldn’t you? Nice defense, Ms South!
Against 3NT, let’s say that West leads Diamonds, the unbid suit. That gives Declarer a second Diamond trick and a total of 9. Of course, matchpoint players aren’t satisfied with merely making their contract, and the only source of overtricks is in Spades. It would be nice if the Q♠ were onside, that would provide two overtricks. Declarer needs the Clubs for communication, so she leads a Spade at Trick Two and the Jack forces the Ace. The defense clears the Diamonds, but now Declarer can count 2 Spades, 2 Hearts, 2 Diamonds and 5 Clubs for a total of 11 tricks. Of course, if West finds an opening lead of the Q♥ then it will be just 10 tricks.
A Classic Deception
Let’s revisit the play of the hand, but with the Q♠ in the East hand. Now, when the Spade finesse loses at Trick Two, Declarer must be satisfied with just 9 tricks. So what, you say? Well, suppose that the Q♠ is with East, but when Declarer takes the Spade finesse East false-cards with the Ace! Now, as before, Diamonds are cleared, then Declarer gullibly repeats the “winning” Spade finesse for her 11th trick. Oops! The Queen wins the trick, three Diamonds are cashed and it’s down one!
Against 4♥, West leads a Club won by East’s King. The defense is now at the crossroads:
- If East continues Clubs, and it turns out that South started with Qx (as on the actual hand), then the Queen wins, A♥ is cashed, then over to the K♥, A♣ (pitching a Diamond), and repeated Spade finesses until West ruffs with his natural trump trick. Making 11 tricks.
- If East shifts to a Diamond instead, then he’ll regret that if Declarer started with Ax in Diamonds. Again making 11 tricks if East guesses wrongly to shift.
How is East supposed to know? There is no foolproof solution on the hand, but those playing against a South who is known to be “mechanical” will have a distinct advantage on the hand. It doesn’t matter whether E-W are playing 4th best or “3rd and 5th”, either way, East will be guessing whether the lead is from a 3- or 4-card suit. If it is from 3 then East will also be hoping that the lead is from Qxx, in which case there is a second Club to be developed, and no need to make that dangerous Diamond shift. If it is from 4 then there are no more defensive tricks in the Club suit and the defense must look elsewhere. This is where Mr Mechanical enters the picture. He’s the guy that always plays his lowest card whenever he is not trying to win the trick. So, on this board, when he plays the Eight, East can be quite sure that Mr Mechanical does not have a lower card. So, Partner has led from a 4-card suit, and East can act accordingly.
6NT is certainly the right spot! Declarer wins the opening Diamond lead and leads a Spade towards the board. When the Ace pops up, it’s 12 tricks. 6♠ is less fortunate, down one when the Spades are 4-1.
Put yourself in the South chair, imagine that you hold AJx of Spades, and are defending 6NT. Declarer wins the opening Diamond lead, and leads a Spade towards the board. Yes, the winning play is to duck (smoothly of course). Now Declarer might try to lead Spades towards the board a second time, and that will be down one. Look what happens if South takes that first Spade trick. Now Declarer has no chance of a second Spade trick, and will be forced to take the Heart finesse for her 12th trick. Nice duck!
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