Eddie Kantar

Test Your Defense

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#61   You are the Boss!

Dlr: North

Vul: E-W

North (dummy)

S. AK52

H. 43

D. K8

C. KQ1075   

                    East (you)

                    S. 10943

                    H. AJ10

                    D. AQ5

                    C. 984

North   East   South   West

1C       Pass   1H        Pass

1S       Pass    3H       Pass

4H      All Pass

Opening lead:  D3  (4th best leads)

Dummy plays the king and you win the ace, declarer playing the six. Now what?


You know from the lead that partner cannot have more than five diamonds and you know from the play of the king that partner has the DJ. If declarer had the DJ, he almost surely would have played low from dummy.  You know enough to defeat the contract! Play the queen and a third diamond forcing dummy to ruff. Once dummy ruffs you must get two heart tricks. If you don't play a third diamonds, declarer has the wherewithal to discard his own third diamond before leading hearts from dummy TWICE.

The West hand:  S. J876  H. 65  D. J9432  C. J6 

The South hand: S. Q  H. KQ9872  D. 1076  C. A32


Yet another technique of promoting a trump trick is to force dummy to ruff reducing the number of finesses dummy can take in the trump suit.

# 62   You have three tricks, but you need four!

Dlr: North

Vul: East-West

North (dummy)

S. K87


D. AQJ762

C. 9

                  East (you)

                  S. AQ

                  H. Q1075

                  D. 105

                  C. A8543 

North   East   South   West

1D       Pass   1S         Pass

3D       Pass   4D         Pass

4S       All Pass

An expert North would have rebid 2H over 1S intending to support spades later. Note:  If South raises hearts, South must have five spades. With 4-4 in the majors, the proper response is 1H.

Opening lead: CQ    You rise ace and spear South's king.  Now what? 


South figures to have five spades (probably would not have passed 4S knowing of a 4-3 fit) and has one club leaving South with 7 red cards.  If South has four diamonds and three hearts, partner has a singleton diamond and might have led it in desperation. Most players like to lead singletons so much that they lead one even if they don't have one. No, it looks more like South has three diamonds and four hearts. If that is the case, partner has a doubleton heart and you can give partner a heart ruff if you shift to a heart and p play a heart each time you get the lead in spades.

The West hand:  S. 652   H. 98   D. 98   C. QJ10762

The South hand: S. J10943  H. 6432  D. K43  C. K


At times you can infer side suit shortness in partner's hand and give him a ruff even though he didn't lead the suit.

#63   A Slam Dunk

Dlr: East

Vul: Neither

North  (Dummy)

S. KQ9

H. AQ32

D. QJ982

C. 5

                  East (you)

                  S. AJ10

                  H. 65

                  D. 1043

                  C. AK764

East   South   West   North

1C     1H         Pass    4H

All Pass

Opening lead:  CJ      Plan your defense 


Clearly you must try to establish two spade tricks before the diamonds are established. In other words, you must project the DK or the DA in partner's hand and shift to the SJ at trick two. If your projection is accurate and declarer has at least three spades, you will wind up taking two spades, one diamond and a club.

The West hand:  S. 8643   H. 84  D. K65  C. J1082   

The South hand: S. 752  H. KJ1097  D. A7  C. Q93


When dummy comes down with an established, or soon to be established side suit, an attacking defense is called for. Good defenders project the least necessary of the missing honors in partner's hand necessary to defeat the contract. Here, the DK.

#64   Looking Ahead 

Dlr: South

Vul: Both


S. KQJ10

H. 954

D. K109

C. 654

               East (you)

               S. A7543

               H. KJ8

               D. 7

               C. J983

South   West    North    East

1D        Pass    1S         Pass

3D        Pass    4D(1)    Pass

5D       All Pass

(1)  Played as not forcing 

Opening lead:  H2       Plan your defense.


It's clear that you need at least two tricks between clubs and hearts outside of the SA to defeat this contract. In other words, partner needs either the HQ or the CAQ if he does not have the HQ. If you play the HK and it loses to the ace, as it surely will, and a spade is led driving out your ace, which suit are you going to return?   The way to avoid the guess is to play the HJ at trick one!  Partner is not underleading the HA into the strong hand so declarer has that card.  If the HJ loses to the ace, you will know it is right to continue with hearts when in with the SA.  If the HJ loses to the queen, you will know it is right to switch to a club. Third hand high does have some exceptions, you know.

The West hand:  S. 982  H. 10732  D. 86  C. AQ102

The South hand:   S. 6  H. AQ6  D. AQJ5432  D. K7 


There are at least three points to take away from this hand:

1.  As third hand when you see 9 or 10 cards in a side suit between your hand and dummy, assume partner does not have a singleton in that suit.

2.  When leading from a weak side suit (hearts), when you have a stronger side suit (clubs), conisder leading a high disccouraging spot card in the first suit, for example the H7.

3.  At a trump contract third hand holding the KJx(x) partner leading a low spot card dummy having small cards should consider playing the jack to discover who has the queen. This play is particularly important if third hand has a quick entry (SA) and will have to decide which of two suits to return upon getting in. If third hand does not have a quick entry, the king is the better play. If the jack is played and partner has led from the queen, partner will think declarer has the king.

#65    Something to Think About 

Dlr:  North

Vul: Neither 

North  (dummy)

S. 765


D. A63

C. KJ1072

                 East (you)

                 S. K10982

                 H. 986

                 D. J82

                 C. AQ

North   East   South   West

1C       1S      2NT (1) Pass

3NT     All Pass

(1)  13-15   (Some play 11-12 in competition)

Opening lead:  SQ     Plan your defense 


Declarer is marked with either the AJx or the AJxx of spades. In either case declarer has two spade tricks. However, it is important to drive out those two spade stoppers before clubs, dummy's long suit, are developed.  The proper play at trick one given your interior spot card strength is the SK guarding against partner having the singleton queen. If you don't play the king, declarer can play low and partner, with a singleton, will have to switch suits and  you won't be able to drive out both spade honors in time. 

The West hand:  S. Q  H. 105432   D. Q954  C. 653

The South hand: S.  AJ43  H. AJ7  D. K107  C. 984

#66    The Killer

Dlr: North

Vul: N-S

North (dummy) 

S. 54

H. AK5432

D. 9

C. KQ109

                  East  (you)

                  S. 103

                  H. Q109

                  D. J10763

                  C. AJ7

North   East   South   West 

1H       Pass   2S         Pass

3C       Pass   3S       Pass

4S       Pass   4NT      Pass

5D      Pass    6S      All Pass

Lead:  C8   Dummy plays the queen.  Plan your defense.


Partner's lead appears to be top of a doubleton in which case declarer has four clubs. And what he is going to do with them?  He will surely set up dummy's hearts to try to pitch club losers. And once the hearts are established, how will declarer get to dummy to use the hearts?  Well, if you take the first club he will have a club entry to dummy. However, if you duck the first club, you kill the heart suit.  Play low at trick one.

The West hand:  S. 976  H. J87  D. K8542  C. 82

The South hand:  S. AKQJ82  H. 6  D. AK  C. 6543  


A long suit in dummy that needs to be established by ruffing, declarer needs a return entry to dummy to use the suit. One way to kill that return entry is to make a ducking play in the suit partner leads (ducking the first club).

#67    The Director

Dlr: North

Vul: E-W

                   North (dummy)

                   S. 1054

                   H. A654

                   D. 84

                   C. AKQ10

West (you)                

S. 72

H. K98

D. K7653

C. 954

North   East   South   West

1C       1S      2H         Pass

4H       All Pass

Opening lead: S7

Partner wins the first three tricks with the Q, K and A of spades. What do you discard at trick three? 


A low diamond is the correct answer. You want partner to lead a 4th spade, not a diamond. If partner plays a 4th spade, you must make a heart trick. If declarer discards, you will insert the H8 driving out the ace, establishing your king. If declarer ruffs high, you discard and your K98 morphs into a natural trump trick. In fact, your hearts don't even have to be that strong to promote a trump trick with a 4th spade play. K9x or Q9x are sufficient.

The East hand:  S. AKQ63  H. 3  D. J1092  C. 853

The South hand: S. J98  H. QJ1072  D. AQ  C. J72


When making a discard, first ask yourself which suit you want partner to lead. 2nd question:  Which suit is partner likely to return without a clear cut discarding signal. The answer to the first question on this hand is a spade, not a diamond. A spade lead ensures a trump promotion set. The answer to the second question is a diamond. Your job is to make a discouraging discarding signal in diamond forcing partner to rethink the issue.

#68   Haste Makes Waste

Dlr: South

Vul: None

North (dummy)

S. J96

H. QJ4

D. KQJ1063

C. 5

                  East (you)

                  S. A52

                  H. 1053

                  D. A98

                  C. QJ109

South   West   North   East

1S        Pass    2D       Pass

2NT      Pass    3S       Pass

4S        All Pass

Opening lead: D2       Dummy plays an honor.  Plan your defense

North's 3S bid, delayed support at the three level is a game force. South's 2NT bid shows extras. Perhaps the strength of an opening 1NT with five spades. 


Partner has led a singleton diamond. You can win the ace and give partner a diamond ruff for two tricks. Your ace of spades is 3, but where is #4 coming from.

You cannot give your partner a second diamond ruff when in with the SA because partner won't have any more trump left. He only started with two! Since you can give partner a diamond later, you should try to build up a heart trick by leading the suit now in case partner has the king. After all, partner can't lead a heart from his side and a heart trick, if it exists, must be built up pronto. 

The West hand:  S. 54   H. K976   D. 2   C. 876432

The South hand:   S. KQ1083  H. A82  D. 754  C. AK


It pays to know how many trump partner has. Frequently the bidding tells you. Many a defensive play is based upon knowing this.

When partner leads a singleton and you have the ace of the singleton suit as well as the ace of trump, there is the possibility of giving partner two ruffs...IF partner has at least three trump. If partner only has two trump, you can only give partner one ruff and it is usually right to try to build up a side suit trick before giving partner that one ruff. At least it is something to think about.  

#69    To Remember

Dlr: South

Vul: Both

North (dummy)

S. A103

H. 765

D. Q92

C. KJ43

             East (you)

             S.  862

             H. Q1082

             D. 43

             C. 10865

South    West    North    East

1NT       Pass     3NT       All Pass

Opening lead:  S5       Dummy plays low, which spade do you play?  


The deuce. Might as well give partner count.  When dummy has three cards in the suit that has been led and third hand also has three cards headed by the 8 or lower, there is no good reason to play the eight. It will seldom drive out anything of value and partner will remain in doubt as to the count. However, if you play the deuce showing three (or a singleton), partner will have a much better chance to figure out the hand.

The West hand:  S.  KJ754   H. J93    D. A86  C. A7   

The South hand:  S. Q9        H. AK4   D. KJ1075  C. Q92

Consider the actual layout. If you play the deuce, it is easy enough for partner to work out that declarer started with Q9 doubleton and get out with the SK after winning the DA.  Declarer winds up with 8 tricks. And if declarer tries to steal a club at trick two, West should rise with the ace and continue with the SK setting up the setting tricks in spades  to take when in with the DA.  It's win-win for third hand play to play low from three small when partner leads the suit at notrump.

#70   What does it Mean?

Dlr: North

Vul: Both

North (dummy) 


H. J

D. KQJ53

C. KQJ93

                  East (you)

                  S. J73

                  H. 10863

                  D. 9642

                  C. 62

North   East   South   West

1D       Pass   1S        Pass

3C       Pass   3S        Pass

4S        Pass   5S       Pass

6S        All Pass

South's 5S bid asks North if he has first or second round heart control, the unbid suit. North confirms second round control by bidding 6S. If North had the HA, he would cuebid 6H in case a grand was biddable. If North had the HK, he would bid 5NT in case South wanted to play the hand in notrump from the North seat. 

Opening lead:  HK       Which heart do you play?


The 8 or the 10.  There is much confusion as to what third hand's play to the first trick means when partner leads a high card and there is a singleton in the dummy.

Some play suit preference at all times.  A better rule is that the play is suit preference if there is no possibility of a trump promotion. Here you clearly want partner to play the HA if he has it to promote your SJ.  Playing a high heart should ask partner to lead a second heart. Why shouldn't it show the DA? 

Assuming South has his wits about him, the 5H bid should show both minor suit aces. If South had only one minor suit ace he would cuebid the suit at the five level if he were interested in slam.  With two heart losers and only the SK, South must have a terrific hand to try for slam. 

The West hand:  S.  5   H. AK952   D. 1087   C. 10874

The South hand:  S. K1098642  H. Q74  D. A   C. A3


If trump promotion is possible, an encouraging signal when dummy has a singleton and partner leads the ace or king asks for a continuation. When trump promotion is impossible, it is normally a suit preference play.

A jump to five of the agreed major or a raise from the four level to the five level of the agreed major asks partner for first or second round control in the unbid suit. If the opponents have been in the bidding, it asks partner for first or second round control in their suit.

The responses to a raise to the five of level of the agreed major are:

1.  With the ace of the ask suit, cuebid the suit.

2   With the king of the ask suit, bid 5NT

3.  With a singleton in the ask suit, jump to the six level of the agreed suit.

4.  Lacking first or second round control of the ask suit, pass.



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