Test Your Defence Column by Julian Pottage
Originally published in, and reproduced here with permission of, Bridge Magazine
Partner leads the queen of diamonds. What are your thoughts as declarer plans the play?
Partner leads the two of spades. What are your plans this time?
Solutions to Test Your Defence
As a defender, you should use the time that declarer spends in studying the dummy to assess the situation yourself.
A count of points – 18 between your hand and dummy – 18 at least with South – tells you that partner has at most 4. As well as the queen-jack of diamonds that you know about, partner can have at most a jack.
The most useful jack partner can have is in spades – if declarer has that card, unless it is in a holding of A-K-J alone, you can count nine tricks against you. These would be four spades, three hearts and two diamonds. Of course, partner will also need something in clubs to stop declarer from setting up a trick in the suit, probably 10-x. In this case, you do not want to play a high club on the first round. You should steel yourself to play low smoothly. Declarer will surely misguess.
This time, if the lead is from four spades to the queen, you might be able to defeat the contract easily by way of four spade tricks and an ace in partner’s hand. If declarer has both minor-suit aces, you probably cannot beat the contract whatever you do. You thus focus on trying to beat it when declarer has the queen of spades.
Since you have worked out that you need partner to have an ace anyway, it does not matter if you block the spades. You can afford to play them for deceptive effect. Do not play king, ace and another. Instead, win with the ace and return the five. Declarer is likely to go wrong, inserting the ten.
Since the bidding means that South cannot have ♠ K-Q-10-x, it will be clear that you have a third spade. Having taken the jack of spades, partner continues with the three, a suit-preference signal for clubs. You then win the third spade and switch to a club. Partner wins and cashes the long spade.