Chuck Arthur

Play or defend 1

This was deal 9 from the STaC (Sectional Tournament at Clubs) game Thursday afternoon, November 17, in a 20 table game at Hazel’s Bridge Club. Have a look at this layout. Would you rather play or defend a contract of 4 of a major? There seem to be four losers and no place to dump any of them. This is what happened at our table.


3 diamonds was preemptive, although nobody asked, You can follow the play by pressing the Next button (above) a few times, or by reading the explanation following. North cashed the Ace of diamonds, and switched to the 10 of clubs. Declarer won the ace and cashed two top trumps. Then he went after hearts. North declined to ruff in on the third round, so declarer cashed a fourth round, North still discarding. Declarer then exited with a club and South had to win but was endplayed. She had to lead a diamond yielding a ruff and a sluff.

Double dummy, 4 spades played by West can be broken. It takes a middle club lead at trick 1 to do it.


Again, you can follow the play by pressing the Next button a few times, or by reading the explanation following. North leads the 10 of clubs. It is immaterial what declarer does; let us say that he wins it, following the previous line of play. Now when North gains the lead with the Queen of spades, the defenders can use their diamond winner to untangle their winners in clubs, using diamonds as the communication suit,  crossing to the King of clubs, back on a high diamond, and cashing the Queen of clubs, The losers are 1 spade. 2 clubs, and 1 diamond.

4 spades is unbreakable (double dummy) when played by East. 4 hearts can be made no matter whether East or West declares. Why doesn’t the same defence work against 4 hearts played bt West as when West declared 4 spades?


I couldn’t concoct a legitimate auction to have West the declarer in 4 hearts, so I just had him bid it. Once again, you may follow the play by sucessively pushing the Next button immediately above, or by following my explanation following. Have North lead the 10 of club; Declarer wins the ace and draws trump. Now before knocking out the Queen of spades, he executes a scissors coup, leading a diamond himself. The defenders can cash one diamond and the King of clubs, but then must yield a sluff and a ruff. One of the black losers disappears; there is still one black loser, but 4 hearts is just in.

Those interrested may view the virtual traveller here. There was a scoring error: NS 20 vs. EW 12 actually made 4.


Mike HamiltonNovember 29th, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Once North makes the good switch to a club, does it make sense not to ruff the third heart and continue the club attack, especially if South can give a count on the play of her hearts? Even without a count, how can it hurt for North to win the third round of hearts and continue the club attack? If declarer had a high club, he might have let the first club come around to his high card and taken a later finesse for any missing club. The fact that he did not suggests the South hand might have a high club and if she is honour-small, a club return by the North hand in the middle-game might be needed to take South off an end-play.

Had North returned her smallest club, with the E-W hearts breaking 4-4, N-S collect 2 clubs, a diamond, and a trump. As long as North wins the third round of hearts with the master trump and returns a small club, West can never make 4S. The question remains as to how easy or hard this defense would be to find at the table, given the bidding and play to the first few tricks.

If North’s opening lead is the club ten, this guarantees 2 club tricks to go with a trump and a diamond, but there is some chance of the club honours being crashed on a friendly defense. South can avoid this by unblocking the king; then North wins the 2 club tricks. This would take a combination of courage and some fine inferential reasoning from the play to the opening lead (somehow concluding partner’s lead was from an interior sequence). I wouldn’t find the unblocking play.

If South is on opening lead and leads a low diamond to partner who returns the club ten, how can East make 4S? N-S are entitled to the same 4 tricks on careful defense whether 4S is played by East or West.

I don’t think 4H makes on best defense either. N-S get the same 4 tricks defending hearts as defending spades. As long as North leads the first club after winning their diamond, N-S get the same 4 tricks. If South is on lead, she leads a diamond. If North is on lead, she can cash a diamond with the opening lead and switch to clubs. The scissors coup works only if the opening lead is a club, but if N-S take their diamond trick first, it can’t work.

How can 4H make against best defense? West has no long side suit to set up for a spade discard by East and West can discard only two spades on East’s long clubs, but to set up the clubs, E-W must lose 2 tricks.

The Reese-Schapiro method of holding cards might have helped West bid 4H holding 5=4 in the majors after pre-emptive diamond bidding by the opponents. And some Italian toe-tapping might have helped South unblock the club king under the ace to take herself off an end-play.

Chuck ArthurNovember 30th, 2010 at 10:56 pm


North was a very good player. She did not ruff in early because she saw that there was no advantage. She had a count on the red suits, so she knew declarer could not get any discard. Her best hope was that declarer would make a mistake.

When I make statements such as “The contract can only be broken when played by West on a club lead at trick 1” and “Both 4 hearts and 4 spades are cold when played by East”, the reader should take them as gospel. This is not because I am so wonderful, but because I have had help. It means that I have run the hand through Deep Finesse, the double dummy analysis program (it always does perfect analyses), and that I am reporting its results. If you think that you have found a line that runs contrary to the Deep Finesse analysis, it means that you have not yet found the flaw in your reasoning. I have been humbled by it many times. For further information on Deep Finesse, see

Leave a comment

Your comment