Andre Asbury

Passive Defense and Squeezing Declarer

One of the best guidelines for defense is that when the auction indicates partner has virtually no high cards, make a passive lead and just wait on your tricks to come. Another good guideline to follow as opening leader is that when dummy (or declarer) has a long suit that is likely to run, make an aggressive lead. Try looking at only the auction and the west hand to start with today. I totally do not condone this bidding but it is what happened at the table and I found myself on opening lead.

Dealer: E

Vul: EW

West East
AK84 JT76
Q96 J8
A85 QJ76
JT5 973
West North East South
Pass 1
Pass 1 Pass 1NT
Pass 2 Pass Pass
2 Pass Pass 2NT
Pass Pass Pass

A heart lead is definitely out, a spade lead could work out but this really doesn’t seem like the hand to try to set up spades – declarer likely has 4 to at least the Q. A club lead is unlikely to give up a trick, and a diamond lead could work out well but could be disastrous if partner doesn’t have 2 honors. By the first guideline, you should lead a club, refusing to give declarer a spade trick and just making sure you don’t give up any natural tricks. By the second guideline, you should lead a diamond, the most aggressive lead. Your Qxx of hearts looks bad for the defense as it is likely dummy’s hearts will run, or that they will all set up with only 1 loser, so finding partner with 4 or 5 diamonds to the QJ (or QT with the J in dummy) might make that a good lead.

On this hand, the diamond lead works great, after winning the K, all declarer can do is cash his 7 tricks, for when the defense gets in, it’s wide open for them to take 4 spades and 3 diamonds. However, switch the J and 8 of diamonds and it’s a very different story. The diamond lead is disastrous because it not only gives declarer a diamond trick he couldn’t get on his own, but it also doesn’t set up anything for the defense. East still cannot get on lead to lead a spade through declarer, and declarer can cruise to 9 tricks (4 hearts, 4 clubs, and a diamond).

Back to the original deal – let’s take a look at the ending after a club lead. Declarer wins the first club on the board and then attempts to duck a heart into west (but that’s not possible because east’s 8 pops up on the first round, so he plays A, K and another heart. West then continues the passive defense by leading another club, taken with the ace. Upon cashing the last round card in dummy, declarer squeezes himself, but there really isn’t anything he could do to avoid it – playing like this up to this point was necessary to prevent east from leading through his pointed honors. Here is the lie of the cards with the 13th club left to cash.

West East
A8 QJ7

The bidding makes it clear that south’s distribution is 4-3-3-3, so west should have no problem figuring out what to pitch behind declarer. Interestingly, what east pitches doesn’t matter as long as he hold QJ of diamonds. Declarer must unguard either his diamond or his spade and west pitches the opposite suit. So either west’s 8 will be good to win trick 13 when the Q falls under the AK or east’s diamond Q will take trick 13 after declarer’s now-stiff K falls under the A.

The result is making 2 for 120, but that still should be a good matchpoint score for EW because NS rate to make 3H for 140.


Dave Memphis MOJOApril 27th, 2010 at 3:21 am

Very nice hand, thanks for sharing.

I believe there’s a typo — South should have the spade queen (instead of the ace).

Andre AsburyApril 27th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Thanks. It’s been fixed.
At the table, declarer failed to realize the last club was good, so we set the contract and my partner was disappointed that I deprived him of beering the hand by leading more diamonds instead of cashing my spades.

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