By Ken Masson


Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for 35 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in Toronto since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner, Rosemarie, are now in their third year wintering in Lakeside.

Defense is generally regarded as the most difficult element in the game of bridge. While the declarer has the luxury of seeing all 26 cards at his disposal, each of his opponents has to find a way of defeating the contract while only seeing half of their combined assets. Still, there are some tried and tested strategies that the defenders can employ to make life difficult for the declarer.

In the illustrated hand, played in a game at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club, North opened the bidding 1 club and South responded 2 No Trump to show a balanced 11 or 12 high card points and no four-card major. As North held a minimum opener and no long suit, there was no further bidding.

West led the spade Jack which was overtaken by East with the Ace. East continued with the spade Queen, which held the trick, and then the spade 3 which was taken perforce by declarer’s King.

The series of plays so far convinced South that West was likely to have the two outstanding spades so it was in declarer’s best interest to attempt to keep West off the lead. With this in mind, declarer led a small club from hand and inserted the Jack in the dummy. East took the Queen and returned a small diamond on which South played the King and was relieved to see West follow with the 2.

Declarer now cashed the club King, crossed to dummy with the club 10 and played a small diamond back towards hand. East rose with the Ace but the contract was now safe—declarer had his eight tricks.

In the post-mortem, West suggested that there might have been a different result if East had played the spade Queen at trick one. Think of the problem facing South if that had happened: not knowing which hand held the spade Ace, declarer may well have taken the King at trick one for fear that otherwise it would be lost. After all, West was just as likely to have led from a combination such as AJ109x as the actual holding. The play of the Queen by East would have been a no-risk proposition which could well have defeated the contract.

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