Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jennbridge: Defending against 3NT

The defense of a bridge hand has been called the "Achilles heel" of all bridge players.  I agree.  I find it easier to defend the contract of 3NT rather than a suit contract, however, as partner's hand is so well-defined.

Here's a hand from a pair game at a recent regional.  With none vul., partner passed, RHO opened 1NT and I held:

♠ Q105

While I could have made a bid showing hearts and a minor, I elected to pass and LHO bid 3NT.  I led the fourth best 5, and saw this dummy:

♠ 984

                         ♠ Q105
                         ♥ AQ852 
                         ♦ 10

The jack won the trick as partner followed with the 7 and declarer played the 6.  I paused before moving on to the next trick, as is my habit, as this is the best time to study the hand.  This is the time to count the points to determine the number of points partner is likely to hold.  It is important to do it at the beginning of the hand, because as the hand progresses there are new problems and issues to focus on which may make it difficult to reconstruct the initial hands.

So, the opponents hold between 24 and 26 points and I hold 12.  That means my partner holds 2-4 points.  With this in mind I proceed with the defense.

Declarer plays 3 rounds of diamonds ending in her hand with the ace and then leads a club toward dummy.  What do you do?


At the table I grabbed the ♣K and led a spade, convinced that partner held either the ace or king of spades.  Partner obliged by winning the ace and returning a heart, enabling me to cash out the heart suit for a two-trick set and 32 out of 38 matchpoints. (9 pairs made 3NT, 13 pairs were down 1 and 8 pairs were down 2.)  Here is the whole hand--I was East:

All Western Open Pairs, Afternoon Session 1 of 4

Board 8
West Deals
None Vul
K J 7
K 10 6
A 9 8 5
A 7 4
A 6 3 2
9 7
7 6 3
10 6 5 3


Q 10 5
A Q 8 5 2
K J 9 8

9 8 4
J 4 3
K Q J 4 2
Q 2
NS 2N; EW 3♣; N 2; EW 1♠; EW 1; S 1; Par −100: N 3×−1; NS 3N×−1

Some pointers for defending notrump contracts:
  • First, it's usually right to lead from length. 
  • Second, it's vital to determine partner's strength--this should be done at trick one.
  • Third, absent a signal from partner, an educated guess needs to be made about the location of partner's values.  In this case it was apparent that partner had nothing in hearts or diamonds.  The way declarer played the hand caused me to conclude that partner's values were probably in spades.  Therefore a spade play from my side rated to be safe.
  • Fourth, stay alert and don't let declarer steal a trick.  As you can see, if I duck the ♣K, declarer can score 8 tricks and and get a much better score.  (Or consider this horror if partner and I are both asleep...I duck the ♣K and partner then ducks the ♠A, handing declarer the contract!)
 Go Giants!  See you at the table!

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