Eddie Kantar

Test Your Defense

1-10  |  11-20  |  21-30  |  31-40 |  41-50  |  51-60  |  61-70  |  71-80  |  81-90  |  91-100

These defensive problems are at an intermediate-intermediate plus  level, If you are looking for "brainbusters", check my Kantar for the Defense column in the The Bridge World.  Also, my tips book, 576 Tips for Poor Card Holders  should really help.  Modern Bridge Defense and Advanced Bridge Defense also belongs on the list. End of commercial.
(The 100 hands in this section have been edited 3-4-13)


The majority of good defensive plays require a basic understanding of DECLARER play. Knowing why declarer is doing such and such, helps you decide why you should be doing such and such. Also, counting their points, distribution and, above all, their tricks cannot be overemphasized. And let's not forget watching their leads!    Good luck.

#1   Gotcha!

Delarer: East
Vul: Both

               North (dummy)
                S. AQ1085
                H. 8
                D. 1075
                C. AKJ4

                                      East (you)   
                                       S. 42 
                                       H. AJ109752
                                       D. KJ9
                                       C. 2

East        South       West       North
3H           Pass          4H           Dbl.
Pass         4S         All Pass

Opening lead:  H3    You win the ace and then.....?


West  hand:  S. 76  H. Q63  D. A862  C. 7653 
Declarer's hand: S. KJ93  H. K4  D. Q43 C. Q1098

Better stick that DJ on the table... right now!    Given this dummy, you really need three diamond tricks to defeat the contract and if partner has the ace, and if you lead specifically the jack  you will get them. What can declarer do?   If declarer plays low you can continue with the king and a diamond. If declarer plays the queen, partner wins and returns a diamond through dummy's ten which you are hovering over with the K9. Curtains for declarer, Notice that if you don't shift to a diamond, one of dummy's diamonds goes off on declarer's HK.


Leading the J from a KJ9 (or AJ9) combination when the dummy to the right has the ten is called a "surrounding play". It can't lose a trick but it can gain when partner has the ace (or king) and declarer the queen.

#2   Magic

Dealer: South
Vul:  Neither

                    North (dummy)
                    S. A743
                    H. KQ62 
                    D. Q7
                    C. 987

                                       East (you)
                                       S. 65
                                       H. J8
                                       D. J943
                                       C. KQJ102

South     West    North    East
1NT(1)   Pass     2C         Dbl. 
2S          Pass     4S        All Pass

(1)  15-17  

Opening lead:  CA

You signal with the king to show solidity and partner continues with the C3 to your ten. When you play the CQ, declarer follows and partner discards the two of diamonds. What now?


West hand:  S. Q92  H. 9753  D. 10862  C. A3
Declarer's hand: S. KJ108 H. A104 D. AK5 C. 654

Play a 4th club! Give declarer a ruff and a sluff! Why? You can see 19 points between your hand and dummy and declarer must have at least 15 for 34. The most partner can have is 6HCP and he has already turned up with the CA. Your best bet is to play him for the Q9x of spades and return a 4th club. If he has that holding, there is no way declarer can prevent partner from taking a spade trick even if he looks into his hand! . What can declarer do? If he discards, partner ruffs with the S9 driving out the ace and promoting the SQ to the setting trick. If declarer ruffs with the ten, jack, or king, partner discards and the Q9x of trump is now a natural trump trick.


When there are no possible tricks coming from the side suits, consider giving declarer a ruff and a sluff which might promote a trump trick for partner.

Get in the habit of adding declarer's HCP to dummy's HCP. Subtract the total from 40 to find out what you and partner are working with. When things look desperate (strong looking dummy), assign declarer the least he can have for his bid and start working from there.

#3  The Killer!

Dealer: South
Vulnerable: Both

                      North (dummy)
                      S. Q108
                      H. 93
                      D. AKJ52
                      C. Q43

                                              S. 63
                                              H. AKQ102
                                              D. Q93
                                              C. AJ10

South        West         North         East
1S             Pass          2D              2H
Pass         Pass           4S              All Pass

Opening lead: H4

You win the opening lead with the queen, declarer playing the seven and continue with the HA, declarer playing the jack and partner the six. Now what?


The West hand:  S. 752   H. 654  D. 876   C. 8762
The South hand: AKJ94 H. J87 D. 104 C. K95

Declarer is marked with the AKJ of spades and the CK for the opening bid, so you need two club tricks, However, if declarer has a doubleton diamond he can set up the suit with a ruff and using dummy's third spade as the entry to the established diamonds, However, you have a counter, Force dummy to trump so declarer can not draw trump ending in dummy, Lead a third heart.

By the way, declarer has another heart. If that jack were a true card, partner would  have started with the 8654 and should play the five the second time (present count).


When you lead low from three or four small in partner's unsupported suit, play the lowest remaining card the second time if you started with four and the higher remaining card if you started with three (present count).

One way to kill a long side suit in dummy that has be set up with a ruff, the only side suit entry being in the trump suit, is to force dummy to trump leaving one defender with more trump than dummy.

#4   Combinations

Dealer:  West
Vulnerable: N-S

                 North (dummy)
                 S. AJ74
                 H. 65
                 D. Q93
                 C. KQJ10

                                          East (you)
                                          S. 98
                                          H. AJ73
                                          D. J75
                                          C. A873

West         North        East        South
Pass         1C             Pass       1S
Dbl,           2S            3H           3S
All Pass

Opening lead:  HK

West continues with the H2 and you are on lead at trick three? What now?


West hand:  S. 52   H. KQ102   D. A1062   C. 542
South hand: S. KQ1063 H. 1084 D. K84 C. 96

Switch to the DJ.  You can see that the clubs are soon to be set up and declarer will discard diamonds on clubs, so clearly it must be right to switch to a diamond, but why the jack?

If  declarer has the ace and partner the king, it doesn't matter which diamond you lead. If partner has the DA and declarer the K10, it also doesn't matter which diamond you lead.  In both cases you are only going to get one trick.

The critical holding in declarer's hand is K8x. In that case it is necessary to switch to the jack and hope declarer thinks you have the J10. If he does, he will play low and dummy's queen will win. When you get in with the CA and play a second diamond. Partner now has the A10 hovering over declarer's king and you will get two diamonds to beat this contract one trick.


There are times when you have to make non-standard leads from certain card combinations. These leads almost always take place later in the hand and are hard classify. It helps to be familiar with card combinations,

#5   You Never Know

Dlr: South
Vul: Both

                      North (dummy)
                      S. AKQ
                      H. 843
                      D. 85
                      C. A9764

                                         East (you)
                                          S. J1092
                                          H. A10
                                          D. Q4
                                          C. QJ1082

South       West       North       East
1D             Pass       2C            Pass
2D            Pass        2S             Pass
2NT          Pass        3NT      All Pass

Opening lead:  H5

You play the HA and return the H10. Declarer plays the 7 and then the queen. Partner wins the queen and returns the H9. What do you discard?


West hand:  S. 8753   H. K9652   D. J73   C. 5
South hand: S. 64 H. QJ7 D. AK10962 C. K3

The DQ!   Partner's heart return is supposed to show where his outside entry lies and partner has returned his highest heart. Obviously the entry can't be in spades, and if had a slow entry in clubs he would have returned a low heart, so if it is anywhere, it must be in diamonds.

If partner has the Ace or King of diamonds declarer has no chance, but if partner has Jxx. you must unload your queen to make sure partner has a diamond entry.

If you discard a black card, declarer can enter dummy with a spade and lead a diamond. If you play the queen, declarer will allow it to hold. If you play low, declarer will win the king, cross to another spade and lead a second diamond. This time when you play the queen, perforce, declarer will duck in both cases setting up the suit without letting partner in to cash his hearts, You have to use your imagination on this one.


Responder's second bid suit (2S) is often made on a three card suit hoping partner can bid notrump with a stopper in the unbid suit.

At times you have to unblock from honor doubleton to promote an entry in partner's hand. You may have to do this even though the suit has been bid and rebid to your left!  Courage. If it's the only hope to defeat the contract, do it!

#6    European Seniors Championships 2002


Dlr: South
Vul: Both

                       North (dummy)
                       S. Q
                       H. A
                       D. A7532
                       C. AQJ1032

West (you)
S. J64
H. 9654
C. K874

South       West       North       East
1S            Pass         2C           Pass
2S            Pass          3D           Pass
3NT          Pass          4C           Pass
5C            Pass          5S            Pass
6S           All Pass (Phew!)

You lead the DK to dummy's ace and partner's jack. Declarer clears the SQ and the HA from dummy, partner playing the H2, count. Declarer exits from with a diamond, partner playing the 8 to your Q. On the two diamond plays declarer has played small diamonds. What now?


South hand:  S. AK9872  H. KQ7  D. 64  C. 95
East hand: S. 1053 H. J10832 D. J1098 C. 6

The idea is to prevent South from reaching his hand to draw trump. The only winning exit from your hand at this point is the CK! After winning the ace, if declarer tries to enter his via the C9, partner ruffs,

If declarer tries to get back to his hand by ruffing a diamond, you overtrump. You've got the poor guy coming and going-providing you make the "key play".

#7   Solid Preempt

Dlr: West
Vul: Both
                       North (dummy) 
                       S. AKQ95
                       H. AKJ9
                       D. 76
                       C. Q2

West (you)
S. J2
H. 8
D. 1054
C. AKJ9863

West    North   East   South
3C (1)  Dbl,    Pass   5D
Pass    Pass   Pass

(1) As preempts go, this is a maximum.

Opening lead:  CK   (King from AK at the five level or higher)

Your partner greets your opening lead with the 10 so you continue with the ace and both follow.  It's still your turn. What do you lead at trick three?


 East hand:  S. 10876  H. Q105432   D. J   C. 105 
 South hand: S. 43  H. 76 D. AKQ9832 C. 74

You really don't have a choice. Given the bidding South must have six or seven great diamonds and has turned up with two clubs. Even if he has five major suit cards, dummy has them all covered. Your only chance is to find partner with a diamond honor even a singleton jack, queen, or king will do the trick. Partner "uppercuts" declarer and your  ten of diamonds turns out to be the setting trick.

#8   Three Quickies

Dlr: South 
Vul: Both 

                       North  (Dummy)  
                       S. K4 
                       H. 965 
                       D. AK842 
                       C. K86

West (you) 
S. 1083 
H. AKJ82 
D. 10 
C. QJ95

South  West   North   East 
1S       2H       3D       Pass 
3S       Pass    4S       All Pass

Opening lead:  HA

Partner plays the three and declarer the four. You continue with the HK and this time partner plays the queen and declarer the seven. Flushed with success you play the HJ and partner discards the C2, Now what?


Play a 4th heart and hope partner has either the jack or queen of spades. If he does, the uppercut will promote your S10 to the setting trick. It's hard to see where the setting trick is to come from otherwise. Yes, it is possible to construct a hand where it would be wrong to play a 4th heart, but it requires declarer to have only five spades and no DQ.  Something like: AQJxx  xxx  Jx  Axx.  If this is the case, apologize and get on with the next hand.

The East hand  S. Q  H. Q3  D. J9765  C. 107432 
The South hand:  S. AJ97652 H. 1074 D. Q3 C. A


1. If you and partner lead the ace from ace-king vs suit contracts, there are exceptions. The king is led if the opponents are playing at the five level or higher. The king is led if the suit has been supported or if you are leading a suit partner has bid. In each of these cases it is likely that you would want to lead the ace without the king.

In addition, the ace from ace-king is a trick one convention only. After trick  one the king is led from the ace-king.

2. When partner leads the ace (ace from ace-king) and third hand has Qx, third hand plays low unless the jack is in the dummy. The play of the queen when the jack is not in dummy shows the QJ (x) or a singleton. It is not used to show a doubleton!

3. When there are no tricks coming from the side suits, or it is highly unlikely that a trick is coming from a side suit, ruff and a sluff with trump promotion in mind is the way to go.

#9   Looking Ahead

Dlr: North
Vul: E-W

                           North (dummy)
                           S. J4
                           H. J975
                           D. AQ108
                           C. KQ9

                                                  East (you)
                                                  S. A963
                                                  H. KQ6
                                                  D. 2
                                                  C. 87654

North         East         South         West
1D               Pass         1H              Pass
2H               Pass         4H             All Pass
Opening lead: SK Plan your defense.


West hand:  S. KQ1082    H. 2  D. 97643     C. J3
South hand:    S. 75  H. A10843   D. KJ5      C. A102

Take charge! Overtake partner's opening lead and switch to your singleton diamond. Assuming dummy wins and a heart is led, split your
honors. Then you get in with your other heart honor lead a spade to partner's queen and get your diamond ruff.


The defender who can "see" what the winning defense is, takes charge.
The best play with this heart combination for one loser is to take two finesses.

#10   Looking for Three

Dlr: South
Vul: Both

                               S. 76
                               H. AK852
                               D. 954
                               C. KQ2

                                                  East (you)
                                                  S. AKJ854
                                                  H. J
                                                  D. 32
                                                  C. 10864

South         West         North         East
1D               Pass         1H             1S
3D               Pass         5D             All Pass

Opening lead: SQ Plan your defense.


West hand:   S. Q   H. 1097643    D. 106    C. J973
South hand:  S. 10932H. Q   D. AKQJ87  C. A5

Better overtake the spade and play a second and third spade hoping partner can overtrump dummy. Given South's strong bidding it is the only realistic chance to defeat the contract.


A jump rebid (opener's sequence) generally shows a strong 6 card suit with 15-16 HCP.

When partner leads an honor card (the SQ) and you can see the next lower honor, assume the lead is from a singleton or a doubleton.

Do not signal encouragement if you can afford to overtake partner's lead.

#10   Visualizing

Dlr: South

Vul: Neither             


                           S. K97

                           H. 865

                           D. Q109

                           C. AK107    

                                                    East (you)

                                                    S. AQ5

                                                    H. Q4

                                                    D. 653

                                                    C. QJ965

South   West   North   East

1H        Pass   2C        Pass

2D       Pass    2H        Pass

3D       Pass    4H       All Pass  


 Opening lead:  S3  (4th best leads)   Dummy plays low.  Plan your defense.

With declarer marked with a likely 5-5 in the reds, it is important to cash two spade tricks early. Declarer must have at least two spades and if declarer has two spades and one club and you don't cash the second spade, you can kiss that trick goodbye.  But now what?


If declarer has a diamond loser, it's not going anywhere and if declarer has the AK of diamonds, your only chance is to engineer two tricks in the trump suit where only one may have existed. If declarer has the AJ10xx or the KJ10xx of hearts, you are entitled to one trump trick--or are you?  You can actually get two if partner has the A9x or the K9x of hearts. You must lead a third spade voiding yourself in that suit. Now when declarer leads a heart to the jack, partner wins and plays a fourth spade allowing you to uppercut declarer with the HQ. After declarer overtrumps with the ace, partner's nine is the setting trick.

The West hand:  S. 108432  H. K92  D. J7  C. 843

The South hand:  S. J6   H. AJ1073   D. AK842  C. 2 


When there are no apparent tricks coming from the side suits, look to the trump suit.  Possibilities are trying to give partner an overrruff or trying to engineer an uppercut as with this hand.  The idea is to void yourself in a side suit so that when partner gets in with an anticipated entry (AH or KH), you will be able to s uppercut declarer with your remaining relatively high trump when partner leads your void suit.  It's called looking ahead.  Looking for extra tricks in the trump suit was the theme of most of these hands.





contact Eddie at kantarbridge@gmail.com   •   copyright © Eddie Kantar   •   site by designloft.com