Test Your Defence Column by Julian Pottage
Originally published in, and reproduced here with permission of, Bridge Magazine
You lead the ten of clubs. Partner overtakes with the jack, cashes the ace and continues with the queen. What do you when declarer ruffs with the jack of hearts?
You lead the queen of hearts to the four and ace. Declarer, who has 100 for honours, draws trumps in four rounds. What are your discards and your plans for the future?
Solutions to Test Your Defence
At the table, West discarded a spade. The declarer laid down the ace-king of hearts, pleased to see the queen of fall. Then came the ten of hearts and a diamond towards the jack. East won with the queen and exited safely with a club. East eventually made a second diamond as the setting trick.
‘Does it help if you try to reach my hand with a diamond ruff?’ North asked.
‘I ruff in with the nine, West interjected. ‘Then I exit with a trump. You are still down.’
‘I can see how you make it now,’ said North. ‘After taking the two top trumps, you cash the top diamonds and lead a low trump. The trick comes back with interest because you get to throw two diamonds on my spades.’
West nodded humbly. ‘I slipped up in that case. I need to underruff on the third round of clubs to prevent the trump gambit.’
You need to find four discards. Three are easy to find without reducing your length in any suit to below dummy’s: a heart, a spade and a diamond. Clearly, you cannot spare a second heart because then declarer would be able to set up a long heart. If South has two diamonds, it might not matter if you throw a second diamond. However, in that case, it is hard to see how you will beat the slam. When South has a singleton diamond, you definitely want to keep three diamonds. Your remaining discard will have to be a spade, hoping that East has the nine or perhaps that declarer misguesses.
Keeping the right cards puts you halfway to setting the slam. Suppose declarer goes on to cash a second top heart before leading a diamond. Can you see what happens if you play low? After taking the nine with the queen, partner has no safe return. A spade would be into the split tenace. A diamond return into the ace-jack is just as fatal.
You must rise with the king on the first round of diamonds. This kills the endplay.