We would have to say that over-active defense is one of the most common defensive mistakes. They try one lead, that doesn't provide instant results, so they blow a trick by making an unnecessary shift. Often, a passive approach is required, sitting back and letting Declarer break open the suits and guess what's where.
Related Play Problems Play Problem 75
Related Extracts from Past Wednesday Games
West leads a Spade, of course, and the standard card from that holding is the Ten. East must overtake with the Queen (to prevent Declarer from winning a cheap trick) and Declarer wins the Ace. Now Declarer crosses to Dummy with a Heart and loses the Club finesse. How should West continue? Heíll know that Declarer has the J♠ and that she has denied 4 Spades. Did she start with ♠AJ or ♠AJx? In the first case, West will want to cash those Spades immediately in case Opener started with hands such as ♠ AJ, ♥ Qxx, ♦ Axx, ♣ AQxxx, or ♠ AJ, ♥ Qxx, ♦ Axx, ♣ AQxxx. In the second case, Declarer will not want to give Declarer a second Spade trick, that might be her 9th or maybe a disastrous (for the defense) overtrick. There are no sure things on this one, and East wonít have had the opportunity to provide any clear and meaningful signals. But it does seem to us that, after winning the K♣, a Diamond shift has more ways to win than a Spade continuation. It will almost always be right if Declarer started with ♠ AJx, or if Partner has the A♦, and most of the time when Partner has the Q♥. On the actual deal, either a Spade continuation or a Diamond shift will beat 3NT, but the Diamond shift beats it two. Congratulations to those patient Wests who shifted!
3NT is a contract with zero chance against Meckstroth and Rodwell, but (despite South's extreme overbidding) it has practical chances in the real world. Letís investigate the pitfalls:
East leads a low Spade, letting Declarerís Queen score a trick. Declarer cashes the Clubs, knocks out a Diamond and now has 9 tricks. That low Spade opening lead was just plain bad.
East leads the K♠, and Partner plays the Four, his lowest card, denying the Queen. Declarer artfully plays the Six on this trick, attempting to fool East into thinking that West might have started with Q43 and Declarer with J876. If East is so deceived and continues with a low Spade, itís 9 tricks once again. This pitfall is harder to avoid, but East should get it right, reasoning that thereís no rush to cash 4 quick Spades unless Declarer has 10 fast tricks. If she has those 10 tricks she must own the A♦ and a red Queen, in which case what on earth was West doing raising on a 3-card suit and 5 HCPís, all in quacks?
East leads the K♠, correctly diagnoses the Spade situation, and at Trick Two shifts to a Diamond. Now West has the opportunity to go wrong by flying up with the A♦ and shooting back a Spade, no doubt hoping that Partner has AKTxx of Spades. This is certainly the required play if the contract is to go down two, but not if West merely desires to beat the contract. West should realize that letting Declarer win the Q♦ will be only her 8th trick, and that there is no need to panic.
OK, East cashes the K♠ on opening lead, and the Diamond shift is won by Declarerís Queen. Three pitfalls avoided, one to go. What should the defenders keep as their last 6 cards, after Spade lead, Diamond shift and 5 Clubs? East must pitch Hearts, being sure to hang on to one Diamond. West must keep a Spade, all 3 Hearts, and the ♦AJ, any deviation will allow Declarer a 9th trick, one way or another.
Yes, the secret to success on this board is counting up Declarer's tricks and going passive when the total comes to only 8.
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