Blum on Bridge

Back to Basics - Part I



For the next several weeks, with possible interruptions should something pertinent come up, we'll take a step or two backward. Let's discuss holes in our play and bidding we might have missed on our way to the level at which each of us individually play.

Several years ago, I took a computer course at Edison Community College to further enlighten me about the merits of Windows 95. It was supposed to be an advanced course, but I found I already used most of what was being taught. However, it seems that each week several shortcuts or little things I previously had overlooked arose that made the class worthwhile. I hope my columns over this next period will at the least do the same for you.

The most challenging aspect of the game is defense, so let's begin with that. We'll start with what will seem to be pretty simple stuff, but just maybe there will be something about which you've never been aware.

You're on opening lead against bidding that went 1NT-3NT. Holding KQJ53, the proper card to play is the king, the top of the sequence. What, you ask, is the difference which honor card you lead as each of the three have the same value? Right now let's get one thing straight. Every card you play on defense is important and has significance!

The play of the king tells partner you have either the ace or at least the QJ. Notice I said both the QJ. Against a NT contract lead the top of a three-card sequence, but lead fourth best holding a two-card sequence such as KQ32 or QJ75. To see this more clearly, assume you are in third seat and partner, on lead, plays the queen. You hold the ace and when dummy appears you do not see the king. With the knowledge pard lead the top of a sequence you know he holds the J10 and declarer holds the king.

OK, back to our opening lead of the king. Assume dummy appears with two cards in the suit and no one plays the ace. You win the trick. Which card do you now play, the Q or J? Your second play should always be the bottom of the sequence because it tells partner how long your sequence is. Thus, the correct play is the J. Had the sequence been KQJ10, your second play would be the 10. Suppose you do hold this combination and on the 10 you still do not see the ace. What card do you lead the third time, the Q or J. Aha, a dilemma! Not really.

By now you realize declarer holds the ace and has held up two times without playing it in order to break up communication between you and your partner. If you hold five cards in the suit and dummy has a doubleton, declarer figures that your partner has a three-card holding. By winning the third play of the suit, declarer knows your partner cannot return it should he win a future trick. However, you are going to counter by playing the Q the third time if you want partner to lead the higher side suit or the J if you want partner to lead the lower side suit when he gets in.

To complete our discussion we'll put ourselves in the third position. In the past I have written articles about placing points around the table. When the declarer opened 1NT, you should recognize that he holds within a point of 16. After partner leads the king you will see the dummy. Count dummy's points. Say he has 10. Assume you have one outside ace. That's worth four points. You can count on partner to hold the remaining 10 points. Partner played the 10 when declarer holds up his ace. (You know he has the ace because partner has played both the top and bottom of his sequence.) You also know pard has the KQJ accounting for six of his 10 points. Therefore, he still has four unaccountable points. His third play of the suit, either the Q or J will tell you which suit to lead once you have won your side suit ace.