A forcing defense is one where the goal is to undermine Declarer's trump control by repeatedly leading side-suit winners, forcing him to ruff until he is either out of trumps, or else has fewer trumps than one of the defenders.
Related Play Problems Play Problem 205
Related Extracts from Past Wednesday Games
Here’s an interesting bidding problem! Conventional wisdom tells us that the 4-4 fit is better than the 5-3, and sometimes (particularly in the slam zone) even better than the 5-4. On occasion this is true, but we should also take into account the quality of the trump suit, and here is a case in point. South has a choice between Hearts (probably a 4-4 fit, but could be 5-4), and Spades (probably 5-3). Notwithstanding the alluring charms of the 4-4 Heart fit, it seems to us that South should be supporting Spades here. Some reasons:
- In terms of high cards, South’s Spades are better than her Hearts
- South has some Club tricks … they won’t provide any useful pitches in Spades (North has too many) … but if North has moderate Hearts (such as Axxx or Kxxx) then perhaps a Heart loser or two can be pitched away.
- If South bids 2♠ (forcing) and North rebids 3♥ (presumably showing 5-5) then South can always bid 4♥.
Argue the point if you will, but we suggest that South opts for Spades.
The Play in Spades: East leads the ♦K, won by Declarer’s Ace. The ♠A and ♠K are cashed, then four Clubs (pitching a Diamond and a Heart from Declarer’s hand), followed by a Heart to the Queen, King, Ace. Now, with the aid of a Heart finesse against East’s Ten, Declarer strolls to 11 tricks.
The Play in Hearts: The good news here is that the lucky Heart situation allows the suit to be picked up for one loser … the bad news is that Declarer will lose trump control if East is at the top of his game. Check out this defense:
♦K opening lead is won by Declarer’s Ace
Three Clubs are cashed, pitching a Diamond from Declarer’s hand
A Heart is led to the Queen and King, East ducking!
The ♥9 is led and again East ducks!
Spade to Dummy’s Ace
♠K is cashed
Declarer already has 9 tricks, but whatever she does now, she will end up with only one more! Well defended by East, cleverly ducking those two trumps, and justifying the aforementioned bidding advice!
Is North’s 3♦ strength-showing? Not necessarily, she could be merely trying to crowd the auction, and, opposite a partner who couldn’t even respond to an opening bid, this jump covers a wide range. Anyway, it has the desired effect of pushing E-W to 3♠ and that’s one more than they can actually make. South leads a Diamond, and North wins and continues the suit. Dummy ruffs the second Diamond, cashes ♠AK, and is destined to lose two Diamonds, two trumps and a Heart. Down one, just like we predicted.
Next, we visit the Twilight Zone. The contract is still 3♠ and, as before, South leads a Diamond. North wins that and decides that some Hearts should be cashed pronto, before the Clubs provide pitches. So, North shifts to the ♥A at Trick 2, then a second Heart which Declarer ruffs. Declarer leads the Spade Ten (!), South covers with the Jack and the Ace and Queen complete the trick. Now, Declarer pops over to Dummy with a Club, leads another Club and finesses the Four! What a show-off! Making 9 tricks.
If took no fewer than three defensive errors for Declarer to make his 3♠ contract:
- That Heart shift was poor thinking. Looking at only three trumps in Dummy and one in her own hand, North should realize that Declarer has potential trump control issues. Persisting with Diamonds was the way to exploit that.
- South was wrong to cover the ♠T with the Jack. Surely Declarer was not trying an obscure and double dummy swindle holding QTxxx in the suit. A smooth duck (easier to say than to do, perhaps) was required on this trick.
- South blundered again when she failed to split her 98 on the second round of trumps. Splitting wouldn’t recover the previously lost trump trick but it would give South the third round trump winner, making it impossible for Declarer to get to 9 tricks.
OK, it wasn’t very impressive defense, but you have to love Declarer’s two plays in the trump suit!
The Play in 5♣ Doubled:
The defense can go one of two ways:
- Either, they will lead trumps and the play goes: Declarer wins the trump, loses a Spade, wins the trump continuation, and loses a Heart. Now the defense must grab its Diamond trick while the grabbing is good, otherwise Declarer will make 11 tricks (Declarer’s Diamonds go away on the Spades). If the defense does get the Diamond trick it’s down only one.
- Or, the defense can force Dummy with Diamond leads. This is a difficult defense to find, but it works well, knocking out Dummy’s trump entries before the Spades can be established. On this defense Declarer can manage only 9 tricks (5 natural trump tricks in her hand and 4 ruffs on the board).
North’s 1NT was maximum, and West’s 2♠ would be considered by some as evidence of insanity. And vulnerable, no less! Some players just cannot resist balancing at the two-level, can they? North, of course, makes a gleeful Double, perhaps she’s seen West’s balancing act before. As N-S go in search of their 6 tricks and the magic +200, this is how the play might unfold:
North leads a low Club, the spots reveal all, so South confidently inserts the Nine
Diamond to North’s Queen
Club won by South
Club ruffed by Declarer
Heart Ten is finessed, losing to South’s King
K♦ is cashed
Diamond is ruffed by Declarer
J♠ is run around
Spade to Dummy’s King
Two Hearts are cashed
Spade to Declarer’s Ace
Declarer is left with a Heart winner at Trick 13.
Oops! The defense’s magic +200 just became a tragic -670! This deal teaches us two important lessons:
- North should be less gleeful in her doubling, or else she should find a Partner who can defend better. Yes, the winning defense is for South, after cashing the K♦, to play a forcing game with a 4th round of Clubs. Now, however and wherever Declarer chooses to ruff this, the defense must come to one more trick.
- It sometimes pays to make hair-raising balancing bids, all the more so if the opponents can be relied upon to help out during the play.
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