Jeff Lehman

Takes two to defend

I am not sure if this defense is findable.  What do you think?

Assume that the opponents are not vulnerable, and that this is the auction:


West North East South
 1 2 
 Dbl All pass     


At the table at the club on Thursday morning, the opponents were vulnerable and East failed to pass 2X, but, hey, it is my blog, and the cards did lie as indicated below.


Dealer:  E
Vul: None


East’s normal lead is the A (assuming A from AK and length).

West can see a one trick set pretty easily: two diamonds and a diamond ruff, the A, the A, and a presumptive trump trick from partner for his final pass.  But this is matchpoints, and a two trick set for +300 will score much better than +100.

Holding the trump ace, West can see both that the diamond ruff can wait and that, if East has good intermediate trumps, a trump promotion might produce a slow trump trick.  The winning defense is as follows:

1.  A from East, a discouraging signal from West.

2.  Holding promotable trump intermediates, East switches to a spade and declarer calls for dummy’s A.

3.  Declarer calls for a heart from dummy and West rises with the A.

4.  Now West returns a diamond to his partner’s king.

5.  East plays a third diamond, West ruffing with his small trump.  (This play seems to me to be the toughest, because East has to figure out that his partner played a discouraging diamond at Trick 1 in spite of holding a doubleton.)  The defense has now won four of the first five tricks.

6.  West plays the K and declarer ruffs.

7-8.  Declarer plays the K, winning, and then the J, losing to East’s queen, as West signals encouragement for clubs.  Declarer now has one heart remaining, the ten, and East has one heart remaining, the nine.

9.  East plays a club to West’s ace for the sixth defensive trick.

10.  A high spade from West promotes his partner’s 9 for the second undertrick and +300.

Is the suggested defense findable, to make North pay for his questionable overcall?


LakJanuary 22nd, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Even a natural defense will have 2H down 2.

This is how I see it:

Lead Ace, then King of diamonds and then 8 of diamonds.
West ruffs with the low heart. (3 tricks so far).

West exits with the King of spades and pulls one round of trumps. Ace of hearts is 4th trick.

Now, West leads Queen of spades and north ruffs (does him no good to discard). He plays the 7 of diamonds and ruffs in dummy. Plays a club to the king of clubs.

Now, no matter what he plays, declarer is end-played and has to lead clubs out of his hand into East’s A-J. If he leads hearts, East wins the queen and leads back a heart. The two club losers and the queen of hearts make it 7 tricks for East-West.

What am I missing?

Jeff LehmanJanuary 23rd, 2012 at 4:07 am


You’re not missing anything, Lak. But I surely was. In fact, if declarer forgets to ruff a diamond before drawing two rounds of trumps, East can even cash a diamond for down three.

And even if West rises with the CA (which might be necessary if declarer owns the C9 and finesses against the jack, thus avoiding the endplay you mentioned), he can still assure the second undertrick by virtue of the trump promotion resulting from playing a third round of spades.

My bad.

OptimusJanuary 23rd, 2012 at 3:52 pm

In my opinion, everything that generates confusion should be avoided. The penalty of allowing 2 He x to make is too big. Settle for 1 down by giving encouraging signal.

Stuart KingJanuary 25th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Interestingly if your spades are Kxxxx you have to get partner to switch to a spade trick two for 2 off.

Also on this layout you don’t even need the diamond ruff. If partner cashes both diamonds then switches to spades West just has to win the first round of trumps and return one as declarer can do no better than 6 tricks (he can’t both lead twice towards his clubs and his trumps).

Interesting hand 🙂

RobinMarch 13th, 2012 at 2:07 am

What is wrong with these people? I see this kind of overcall at the club all the time too. Dummy usually shows up with at least one ace and a couple of trumps, though, or they don’t get punished because an opponent lets them off. Show me any bridge book that advocates this kind of overcall.

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