Eddie Kantar

Test Your Play

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edited 3-3-13

#91    Inferences, inferences, inferences

Dlr: South
Vul: Both

S. KJ7 
H. 73
D. K954
C. 10973 

S. Q86
H. A5
D. AJ108

South   West    North     East 
2NT      Pass     3NT       All Pass

Opening lead:  H2   East plays the HK.  Plan the play.


You have 7 top tricks and have to bring in the diamonds as you clearly don't have time to knock out the SA. They will take four hearts and the SA in the blink of an eye.

Before trying to work out who has the DQ, you should cash four rounds of clubs to see what information you can get from that suit. As it happens, West has a singleton club and discards three spades on the remaining club winners. You now have enough information to work out who has the DQ. When a player leads from a four card suit against notrump and then turns up with a singleton in another suit, the assumption is a 4-4-4-1 hand pattern. If not, why wasn't a five card suit led from?

Your next move is to cash the DA, removing East's singleton and run the DJ through West. Success. These are the East-West hands:

The West hand:  S. 5432  H. Q1082  D. Q632  C. 6
The East hand:   S. AJ10  H. KJ964  D. 4  C. 8542    

#92    Tricky Hand

Dlr: South 
Vul: Both

S. A1062
D. 543
C. 63

S. J73
H. A10975
C. K9

You decide to open 1NT rather than have to worry about what to rebid if you open 1H and partner responds 1S. You are too strong to rebid 1NT and too weak to rebid 2NT. This is the main reason that more hands that have 5 hearts are opened 1NT than hands that have five spades. In any case after partner responds 2C, Stayman, you can jump to 3H to show your five card suit and partner has an easy 4H bid.

West leads the CQ,  East wins the ace and shifts to the D10.  Hearts are 2-2.    Plan the play. 


Evenly divided side suits are usually a detriment as no long suit trick can be established. But they do have some usefulness. They can be used to strip an evenly divided side suit (clubs) and use the other evenly divided side suit, diamonds, as the throw in suit to force a return in a suit you would much rather they attack first, spades. There is no enemy spade holding that will allow the opponents to take two spade tricks once you have thrown someone in with a diamond. Say West wins the DQ and exits a spade ducked to East. Now what? A spade return ends the hand as does a ruff and sluff. Simply ruff in dummy, the longer spade hand and discard a spade from your hand, the shorter spade hand, the way to handle a ruff and sluff.

The West hand:  S. 982   H. 82   D. Q872   C. QJ104
The East hand:   S. KQ5  H. 83  D. 1096   C. A8752

#93    Looking Over the Entire Hand

Dlr: South
Vul: Both

D. A10987
C. A109

S. A94
H. A72
D. QJ5

After you open 1NT, partner correctly raises you to 3NT. Strong five card suits should be upgraded a couple of points and North should raise to 3NT even without the SJ. West leads the S2, fourth best leads. Which spade do you play from dummy, and what is your plan?


You should play the SJ from dummy. It is your only chance to take three tricks in the suit. Had you the A104 of spades, you should play low from dummy ensuring two spade tricks. Assuming the SJ is covered you should take the trick.

Spades are 4-4 so there is no point in holding up. The idea of a hold up play is to win the trick when one of the two players is playing his last card in the suit. If you knew spades were 5-3, you would win the third spade. If you knew spades were 6-2, you should win the second spade. 

There is another compelling reason to win the first spade and that is because you can't stand a heart shift before you take the diamond finesse. Take a look at the East-West hands and you will see what could happen if you duck the first spade!

The West hand:  S. K1082   H. 653   D. 64   C. 8732
The  East hand: S.  Q765     H. KQJ9   D. K32  C. 65

If you duck East's SQ, a sharp East will switch to the HK and now you are fated to lose three hearts, the DK and one spade.

#94   What to do?

Dlr: South
Vul: Both

S. 52
H. 76
D. AK86
C. AJ1086

S. AJ4
H. AK3
D. J75
C. Q732

A simple 1NT-3NT auction lands you in 3NT. North is not strong enough to make a minor suit slam try which normally starts with a 2S response, assuming you are playing that convention .

West leads the S7 and East plays the king.   Plan the play. 


This spade holding presents a problem. Should you take the first trick or should you holdup? It all depends upon which opponent is likely to get the lead next. In this case the club finesse, the suit you need to attack, is headed into East. Therefore, you should hold up until the third round of spades and then take the finesse. If it loses and spades were 5-3, East will not have a spade to return and you will take at least nine tricks: Four clubs, two hearts, two diamonds and one spade. If East does have a spade to return, spades were 4-4 and you still have nine tricks after they cash that fourth spade.

If we turn the clubs around, now the club finesse goes into the West hand. Now it is right to win the SA retaining your remaining Jx as a stopper in case the finesse loses. It is easy to know whether to win or duck the opening lead when the hand depends upon a finesse. It is not as easy if you have an ace to knock out. Hopefully there has been bidding so you have idea who has the missing ace. If not, you must make an educated guess.  

The West hand:  S. Q10873  H. J982  D. 743  C. 5
The East hand:   S. K96  H. Q1054  D. Q109  C. K54

#95      When You Wish Upon a Star

Dlr: South
Vul: East-West

S. 963
H. A2
D. 1072
C. KJ1084

H. QJ10874
C. A5

Playing in matchpoint duplicate game you open 2C, partner responds 3C and then raises your 3H rebid to 4H. You deicde to ask for keycards and when partner only shows one, you sign off at 5H. You don't relish being in slam missing two keycards.

West leads the DA and when the dummy comes down you are glad you stopped in five. However, you are playing matchpoints where overtricks count!   Plan the play.


You have a chance for an overtrick if West started with Kx of hearts by running the queen if West plays low. Say you do play the HQ and West covers. It is right to lead a heart to the 8 if West started with a singleton heart, but you will lose if West started with K9 doubleton. Chances are you will play West for a doubleton. However, if you start with the H10 instead of the HQ,  and West plays the king, chances are that it is a singleton. It is unlikely that West would cover the 10 with Kx. Leading the jack is also a strong play. West might be afraid to cover for lest partner has a singleton queen.

The general rule for declarer when it comes to leading one of several equal honor is this: 
(1)  If you want the honor covered, lead the highest equal.
(2)  If you don't want the honor covered, lead the second highest equal.

The West hand:  S. 1087542  H. K   D. A964   C. 73
The East hand:   S.  QJ   H. 9653  D. 853  C. Q962  

Notice that given this lie of the cards, leading a lower honor would give you a much better idea that West's king was singleton.

#96     True Story

Dlr: North
Vul: Both

S. AK102
H. A
D. AKJ10

S. Q5
H. Q10987
D. Q52
C. 943

Many, many years ago this hand was played in a tournament in Monte Carlo. North was Howard Schenken, at one time considered the best player in the world, playing his beloved 'Scenken Club' system with his favorite partner, Peter Leventritt.  After a bidding mixup as Schenken was having a hard time describing the best hand he ever held, Leventritt wound up in 7D after having made a negative response of 1D to the artificial 1C forcing 1 opening.

West led the 8 of spades. How would you play the hand? Compare your line with Leventritt's.

Leventritt took the first three spade tricks, discarding a club and all followed. It was apparent that East remained with the SJ. Now came the AK of clubs dropping the doubleton queen from East. Next came a low club from dummy. East could have trumped with the D8  (he had the 843), but didn't so Leventritt, ruffed low. He then crossed to the HA, ruffed the S10 with the DQ, drew trumps and made seven diamonds. Had East ruffed the third club with the D8, Leventritt would not have been able to trump the fourth spade safely. West would have overtrumped. Oh well, it was only a one trick difference.

The West hand: S. 876  H. J32  D. 976  C. 10532
The East hand:  S. J943  H. K654  D. 843  C. Q7

#97     Two Questions

Dlr: North
Vul: E-W 

H. K84
D. Q6
C. J432 

S. 42
H. AQ6
D. AK1052 
C. 1065

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

Opening lead:  HJ 

(1) Plan the play at matchpoint duplicate.
(2) Plan the play at IMP scoring.


(1)  You start with 8 top tricks and you have a good chance that diamonds will come in for five tricks. If they are 4-2, you can give up a diamond and the most the opponent can take is three clubs and a diamond. In any case you should play diamonds from the top not to give up on two possible overtricks.

(2)  At IMP scoring you are not as much concerned with overtricks as you are with locking up the contract. In order to take out a little insurance against East having five diamonds to the jack, you should win the opening lead in your hand, cross to the DQ and then if East follows to the second diamond put in the ten. Now you will take four diamond tricks no matter what and you won't put yourself in a position to go down if East does have five diamonds.

The West hand:  S. 1097  H. J10952  D. 4  C. KQ98
The East hand:  S. Q865  H. 73  D. J9873  C. A7

This hand exemplifies the difference between match point thinking and IMP thinking. You have to know the form of scoring before embarking upon a line of play.

#98   The Phanthom Finesse

Dlr: South
Vul: Neither

S. AK10753
H. Q62
D. AK10
C. 5

S. Q4
H. AK75
D. Q9632
C. Q4

South   West    North    East
1D        5C       6D        All Pass

The bidding was fast and furious and spades never got mentioned!  West led the CJ to East's ace and East returned a club to your queen, West's king, and dummy's D10.  When you next played the AK of diamonds, West followed low to the first diamond but then discarded a club on the second. Now what?   Plan the play.


The idea is to avoid a diamond loser even though you can't take a diamond finesse. You must plan a trump coup. The firts move is to shorten your trump length to that of East. You plan should be to cash the SQ, cross to the SK and if both follow play the SA. If East follows, discard a heart, ruff a good spade reducing to the Q9 of diamonds and cross to the HQ and play high spades. East is helpless. If he trumps, you overtrump, draw his last trump and claim with the AK remaining. If East refuses to trump, discard the AK of hearts and take the last two tricks with the lead in dummy and you sitting snugly in back of East's J8 of diamonds with the Q9. If East has four spades, discard a heart on the third high spade, ruff a low spade, back to the HQ to play good spades and East is once again a goner.

The trick to executing a trump coup is to (1) reduce to the same trump length as your opponent; (2) be leading from the hand facing the trump length at trick 12. This assume that the player with the outstanding trumps, does not trump a winner earlier which you can overtrump. In so many words, if East fails to trump any winning spade, you must wind up in the dummy at trick 12.

The West hand:  S6 H. 983  D. 4  C. KJ187632 
The East hand:  S. J982  H. J104  D. J875  C. A9 

Notice that 6S doesn't make. You have to lose a spade and a club. Bridge is a great game, isn't.

#99     Matching Wits

Dlr: North
Vul: East-West


S. 92
H. QJ63
C. AQ863

S. 53
H. AK85
D. 108643
C. K4

North   East   South  West   
1C       Pass   1H       2S (weak)
3H       3S      4H       All Pass

Opening lead C5

This is a hand from a Los Angeles Boston Intercity match from long ago. Both declarers wound up in 4H with the same lead. Hearts are 3-2, West having three.   Plan the play.


Both declarers went down. They won the CK, drew three rounds of hearts and led a club to dummy, West showing out. Now there was no way to take more than nine tricks with the clubs breaking 5-1.

Given the lead is suspicous to say the least, the winning play is to take the club lead in dummy, retaining the king as a later hand entry, draw trumps, and play the AJ of diamonds. With diamonds breaking 3-3, the most the defense can take is two spades and a diamond as declarer has the entries to both ruff a diamond and get back to the winning diamonds having two hand entries, a trump and the CK. 

The West hand:  S. AQJ1076  H. 1074  D. Q92  C. 5
The East hand:   S. K84  H. 92  D. K75  C. J10975  

Tip #1  A preemptive bidder normally has a side suit singleton and normally leads it. If a singleton isn't led, chances are the singleton is in the trump suit.

Tip #2  When the lead looks like a singleton, chances are trumps are breaking evenly. Normally one starts with the long suit holding four trumps or suspects from the bidding that partner has four.

#100   Not Exactly a Test Your Play

The third Israeli Bridge Festival in Haifa was highlighted by an incredible deal from the Mixed Pairs. Vulnerable against not, East the player to your right opens 3C and catches you with: S. AKQ  H. KJ974  D.AKQ  C. QJ. You make a sporting double and when partner responds 3D several South players actuallly jumped to 4H which was doubled by West ending the bidding. This was the entire hand:

                                  S. 10832
                                  H. -
                                  D. 1096432
                                  C. 542
           West                                       East
           S. J97654                                S. -
           H. AQ1085                              H. 632
           D. -                                         D. J875
           C. K3                                       C. A109876
                                  S. AKQ
                                  H. KJ974
                                  D. AKQ
                                  C. QJ

  • West started with the king and a club to the ace followed by a third club ruffed by South with the 7 and overtrumped with the 8.
  • A spade was returned ruffed by East and now a fourth club ruffed by the 9 and overtrumped with the 10.
  • A second spade was ruffed by East and now a fifth club was ruffed with the 4 and overtrumped with the five.
  • West returned a third spade again ruffed by East and now a 6th club from East trumped with the jack and overtrumped with the queen.
  • West now played the ace of hearts picking up South's king and took the rest of the tricks with high spades.
  • Down 10! 

Couldn't resist ending with this hand.




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