In previous issue of ESRA magazine, we addressed two of the so-called rules of good defensive play: “Cover an honor with an honor” and “Play your highest card in the suit led by partner – Third hand high”.   We saw that, while these rules do generally apply, there were clear exceptions. One should not follow them blindly and there is no substitute for thinking at the Bridge table. In this article we will continue the “Rules, Shmules” theme with regard to the edict “Second hand plays low”.

 

In the first example, sitting in the West seat, you lead the ©K against South’s 4Sp contract.  South had opened the bidding with 1NT, bid 2Sp in response to North’s 2Cl (Stayman) enquiry for the Majors. North, with four spades and 11 points, raised to game. The ©3 is played from dummy, partner follows with the ©2, which you interpret as the lowest of 3 cards in that suit, and declarer wins with the ©A in hand. 

 

 

Dummy

 

 

 J 8 5 3

 

 

© 8 5 3

 

You

¨ K Q 4

 

 Q 9 4

§ K Q 9

 

© K Q J 10

 

 

¨ 7 6 5

 

§ 8 6 5 2

 

 

Declarer now leads the 2 towards dummy’s J. From the play of the cards to the first trick, you can count declarer as having two small hearts in hand and you can reasonable expect that your side can win two tricks in that suit, so do you play “second hand low” or insert the Q? You must, of course, in this case, follow the rule and play low. You are in no hurry to cash your heart tricks. Your partner figures to have 2 spades to the King or Ace and will beat dummy’s J and return a heart. Declarer will be unable to stop you winning the Q for a fourth trick to defeat the contract.

 

On the other hand, if you go up with Q, your partner’s K will subsequently fall under declarer’s A and your side will be restricted to one spade trick and declarer will bring home the contract. The full hand: 

 

North

 

 

 J 8 5 3

 

 

© 8 5 3

 

West

¨ K Q 4

East

 Q 9 4

§ K Q 9

 K 7

© K Q J 10

 

© 7 6 2

¨ 7 6 5

South

¨ J 8 3 2

§ 8 6 5 2

 A 10 6 2

§ 7 4 3

 

© A 9 4

 

 

¨ A 10 9

 

 

§ A J 10

 

 

How about the next hand? Declarer, South, opened 2NT and North raised to game. You lead the ©Q. Declarer wins with ©K and leads the ¨8 towards dummy. Do you follow the prescribed action of following low or do you go up with the ¨K?

 

 

Dummy

 

 

 9 4

 

 

© 5 4 3

 

You

¨ A J 10 7 4

 

 10 8 3 2

§ 10 7 2

 

© Q J 10 9 8

 

 

¨ K 6

 

§ 8 6

 

You should realize that the main task facing you and your partner is to prevent declarer from enjoying dummy’s long diamonds. Let’s stop and analyze what we know so far. Declarer certainly does not have the ¨Q else he would have led that card from his hand, so you can assume that your partner has it. If partner has only two cards in the diamond suit, it doesn’t matter what you do: Declarer, with 4 diamonds in hand, will clear the suit in 2 rounds and still have diamonds to reach dummy. On the other hand, if partner has 4 cards in the diamond suit, she can hold up taking her ¨Q until she knows declarer has no more diamonds to get to dummy’s long cards in that suit. Again, it doesn’t matter what you do.

 

The critical situation is where declarer and your partner each have 3 diamonds, say ¨ 8 5 3 and ¨Q 9 2, respectively. If you play low, the ¨6, to declarer’s lead of the ¨8, declarer will play the ¨10 from dummy. If your partner wins with ¨Q, the defense is now over because, on the next round of diamonds, your ¨K with fall under dummy’s ¨A. Dummy’s remaining ¨ J 7 4 will then yield an additional 3 tricks in that suit. On the other hand, if your partner ducks and allows dummy’s ¨10 to hold the trick, declarer will next play the ¨J from dummy which you will win with the ¨K. Declarer will win your heart return with the ©A and still has a small diamond to play to dummy’s ¨A, simultaneously felling your partner’s ¨Q and providing entry to dummy’s remaining 2 small diamond winners.

 

No. In this situation, when declarer plays the ¨8 towards dummy, you must go up with ¨K. If declarer wins with dummy’s¨A and continues with the ¨10, your partner will duck. Partner will win the third round of diamonds with her ¨Q, leaving declarer with no entry to dummy to cash the remaining 2 diamonds. If declarer ducks your ¨K, you will play a heart to take out the remaining heart stopper, the ©A, in his hand. Declarer will next play a diamond from towards dummy. If he plays dummy’s ¨A, he will never get back to dummy as your partner still has the ¨Q, while if he plays a small card from dummy, your partner will win the trick and play a heart to your hand, enabling you to take 3 heart tricks and defeat the contract.

 

The full hand:

 

North

 

 

 9 4

 

 

© 5 4 3

 

West

¨ A J 10 7 4

East

 10 8 3 2

§ 10 7 2

 Q J 7

© Q J 10 9 8

 

© 7 6 2

¨ K 6

South

¨ Q 9 2

§ 8 6

 A K 6 5

§ Q J 9 4

 

© A K

 

 

¨ 8 5 3

 

 

§ A K 4 3

  

If you follow the rule and play “second hand low” to declarer’s initial ¨8 play, he will make 10 tricks and bring home the contract with an overtrick. If you play high, the ¨K, declarer will be restricted to 8 tricks. One down. Once again, rules, shmules! Rather, you need to keep your wits about you at the bridge table. 

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About the author

Alan Caplan

Alan Caplan was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was an active member of Bnei Zion and, subsequently, Habonim following the merger of the two movements. The year after high school ...
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