Second Hand Play on Defense based on Eddie Kantar Teaches Modern Bridge Defense

 

Prepared by John Blankinship

 

ASSUMPTIONS

 

       standard leads, including fourth best leads against notrump and suit contracts

       attitude signals for suits initiated by partner (typically standard or upside down carding)

       count signals for suits initiated by declarer or dummy (typically standard or upside down)

 

WHEN DUMMY LEADS AN HONOR

 

       Cover an honor with an honor so as to promote lower cards (usually 9's and 10's) for either yourself or your partner.

 

 

SQ 2

 

Dummy leads the queen and you should cover in order to promote your ten to a third-round trick. If you don't cover, you don't take a single trick in spades.

S6 5 3

 

SK 10 9

 

SA J 8 7 4

 

 

 

SQ 2

 

Dummy leads the queen and you should cover in order to (hopefully) promote a nine or ten for partner. If you don't cover, you don't take a single trick in spades.

S10 6 3

 

SK 5 4

 

SA J 9 8 7

 

 

       If you can't promote anything for yourself, and partner has insufficient length to effect a promotion, don't cover.

 

 

SJ 5 4

 

South's bidding has shown 6 spades, and the SJ is led from dummy. Should you cover? No. You can't promote anything for yourself, and partner has only a singleton which could be the king. Declarer with 9 spades is probably not planning to take a finesse, and she is testing your nerves. Be prepared for this, and play low smoothly.

S? ? ?

 

SQ 3 2

 

S? ? ?

 

 

       If dummy has a number of equal honors, cover the last equal. This is a biggie.

(Some exceptions to this rule follow later.)

 

 

SQ J 9

 

When the SQ (the first of two equal honors) is led from dummy, play low. If you cover, declarer wins and leads a spade to the nine, taking three spade tricks. If you duck and then cover the SJ (the last of equal honors), declarer scores only two spade tricks.

S10 8 7 4

 

SK 6 5

 

SA 3 2

 

 

       Cover the first equal honor if dummy leads from a doubleton in which both cards are honors.

 

 

SJ 10

 

This tactic pays dividends when declarer may have no outside entry to her hand. When dummy leads the SJ from dummy, cover with the SQ. If you duck, the jack wins and declarer takes five spade tricks. If you cover, the suit is blocked when declarer has no outside entry to her hand and she can take at most four spade tricks.

S9 5 2

 

SQ 6 4

 

SA K 8 7 3

 

 

       If there are two equal honors in the dummy and you have a doubleton honor, cover the first honor.

 

 

SJ 10 5

 

If dummy leads the SJ, cover with the SK. If you don't, dummy may lead the S5 next and you will have to play your king "on air." In this case, partner eventually gets a fourth-round winner if you cover. You get no spade tricks if you don't.

S9 8 7 3

 

SK 4

 

SA Q 6 2

 

 

       When declarer has four-card length (or longer), dummy has a doubleton, and you have four or more cards headed by the king, don't cover.

 

 

SQ 2

 

Declarer has bid spades and leads the queen from dummy. Don't cover. There only 2 spades in dummy, and your king will eventually take a trick. However, if declarer is known to hold only 3 spades, cover in hopes of promoting the ten for partner.

S9 4

 

SK 6 5 3

 

SA J 10 8 7

 

 

       When jack is led from dummy and you have AQx(x), it is usually right to play the ace.

 

 

SJ 5

 

If the SJ is led from dummy, play the ace. If you play low, declarer usually plays low and remains in dummy to continue the suit. If you win the ace, South must reenter dummy and then lead low to the ten a play South may be unwilling to make.

S9 8 3

 

SA Q 7 6 2

 

SK 10 4

 

 

       However, when the jack is led from dummy and you have the ace without the queen, you have problems. The general rule is to play the ace at notrump, but low against a suit contract.

 

WHEN DUMMY LEADS A LOW CARD

 

       When dummy leads a low card, second hand normally plays low (showing count), but there are exceptions, as shown by the following examples.

 

Suppose diamonds are trump, and a spade is led from dummy (holding S8 6 4) early in the hand. Assuming standard carding, what is your (second hand) normal play with each holding?

 

S7 5

S7 showing count (2 or 4 spades)

SK 9 3

S3 showing count (3 or 5 spades)

SK 7 5 3

S7 showing count (2 or 4 spades)

SA 7 5 (x)

Play low showing count, unless the ace is the setting trick and it may be lost

SA K 9 2

SK the lower of equals, if you don't know declarer's spade length.

But, if you know declarer has at least 3 spades, it could be right to play low.

SK Q 7 5

If you need only one trick, split your honors. Else, play the S7 showing count.

Most players split with queen, but not all. Discuss this with your partner.

SQ J 7 (x)

Play low when holding J10x(x) or QJx(x)

SQ J 10 (x)

SQ holding a perfect three- or four-card honor sequence headed by the ten, jack or queen, play the honor card you would have led (the highest)

SK Q J (x)

Most players play the jack, but not all. Discuss this with your partner.

 

A few general rules governing the play of equals in second seat are:

1.     If you know you will take the trick, take the trick with your lowest equal.

2.     If you can't be sure you will take the trick, play your highest equal (the one you would have led). But with the KQJ, split with the jack and with the KQ, split with the queen.

3.     With QJ10x or J109x (as opposed to QJ109 and J1098), be careful about splitting if declarer is known to have 4 or more cards in the suit. If there are return entries to dummy, play low.

 

 

S5 3 2

 

If dummy leads a spade, play the queen, showing the top of a perfect 3- or 4-card honor sequence. If declarer wins, partner can unblock if she wishes, and will know it is safe to lead a spade later. If you split with the S9, partner won't have a clue.

SK 6

 

SQ J 10 9

 

SA 8 7 4

 

 

       When the ace is in dummy and a low card is led from dummy, you (second hand) may have a difficult play. Suppose diamonds are trump, and a low spade is led from dummy (holding SA 6 5). Which card do you play with each holding?

 

SK 8 3 2

You have a problem. If declarer has Q10x(x) or partner has the queen, you should play low. If declarer has the Qx or you can lose the king because discards are available, play the king.

SK Q 4

SQ based on Rule #1 above

SJ 10 9

SJ based on Rule #2 above

SQ J 9 2

SQ based on Rule #2 above, showing either the jack or the king

 

WHEN DECLARER LEADS AN HONOR

 

       If declarer leads the queen, you have the king, and dummy has the ace: assume that declarer has at least the QJx(x) or more likely the QJ9(x) or QJ10(x). Reason: If declarer has only QJx(x), she should lead low to the ace and then back towards the QJ. Caveat: Against inexperienced or sneaky declarers, you could lose to a Chinese finesse.

 

 

SA 6 5

 

 

(a) SK 2

 

S? ?

Tough. If declarer has the QJ98(x), you should duck hoping declarer continues with the jack. If declarer has the QJx(x), you should cover.

(b) SK 3 2

Play low.

(c) SK 10 2

Covering is optional with K10x(x), mandatory with K10 doubleton.

(d) SK 4 3 2

Play low, and play low again if declarer continues with the jack. You will eventually win a trick with the king if you don't spend it.

 

Sleads Q

 

 

 

       If declarer leads the jack, you have the queen, and dummy has the ace in most cases you should not cover especially if declarer has known length.

 

 

SA 4 3

 

Declarer is testing you, and is probably not planning to finesse you for the queen. If you play low smoothly, chances are declarer will rise with the ace and lead low to the ten.

SQ 5

 

S8 7 6 2

 

SK J 10 9

 

 

 

SA 4 3

 

You lose a trick if you cover the jack. Dummy wins the ace and leads back towards the ten for a second trick. If you duck the jack and cover the ten, declarer takes but one trick.

SQ 6 5

 

SK 9 7 2

 

SJ 10 8

 

 

       Be wary of covering honor cards in the trump suit (or in any suit where declarer has known length) when there is one honor card in dummy. If there are two honor cards in dummy, cover if promotion is possible (when partner has length in the suit).

 

 

S9 7 2

HK 8 6 4

DA 5 3

CQ 7 5

 

South opens 1NT and ends up declaring a 4H contract. After three quick spade tricks, West exits with the DJ. Declarer wins and immediately plays the HJ. You should play low smoothly. Knowing you have long spades, declarer will probably play East for longer hearts.

 

SK Q J 5 3

HQ 2

DJ 10 8 2

C8 2

 

SA 4

H 7 5 3

DQ 9 6 4

CJ 10 9 3

 

S10 8 6

HA J 10 9

DK 7

CA K 6 4

 

 

DECLARER LEADS A LOW CARD

 

       When dummy has a strong suit headed by the KQ or AQJ, second hand should give count. This will help partner decide when to take her trick if she has one i.e. when declarer plays her last card in the suit.

 

 

SK Q J 10 6

 

Assuming standard carding, when South leads the S2, West should play the card underlined in bold from each holding to give count to her partner.

S7 4

S7 4 3

S8 7 4 3

S9 8 7 4 3

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

       When dummy has you beat every which way, play low.

 

 

SA Q 10 8

 

When declarer leads a low spade, play low. It can't do you any good to play a higher spade.

SK J 9 7 3

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

WHEN TO PLAY SECOND HAND LOW EVEN WHEN YOU CAN TAKE THE TRICK

(assuming you are not ducking with the setting trick)

 

       You have the ace and dummy has a KJ combination

 

 

SK J 9

 

Duck smoothly, and in most cases win the second round of the suit. If dummy has the KJ9 and partner has taken the jack with the queen, duck the second round as well and hope declarer plays the 9 and partner the 10.

SA x x (x)

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

       You have the ace and dummy has a KQx(x) combination

 

 

SK Q x (x)

 

It is usually right to duck the first time and win the second. Even if declarer has a singleton, it usually saves a trick.

SA x x (x)

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

       You have the ace and dummy has a KQ10 combination

 

 

SK Q 10

 

It is not only right to duck the first time, it is usually right to duck the second time as well.

SA 8 7 5

 

SJ 9 2

 

S6 4 3

 

 

       You have a KQ combination and dummy has the AJ9(x)

 

 

SA J 9

 

Play low. If declarer is missing the ten, the percentage play from dummy is the nine, which allows your partner to win the ten. However, if you need only one spade trick to set the contract, split your honors.

SK Q x (x)

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

       You have the king and dummy has the QJ10

 

 

SQ J 10 9

 

Play low. You are pretty sure partner has the ace. If declarer has the ace, why isn't she going to dummy and taking a finesse?

SK x x (x)

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

       You have the queen and dummy has the J10xx

 

 

SJ 10 x x

 

Play low. You are pretty sure partner has the king or the ace, maybe both. If declarer has the SAKx(x), she would either be playing the SAK hoping the queen drops, or entering dummy to take a finesse.

SQ x x (x)

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

       You have the king and dummy has a Q10 combination

 

 

SQ 10 8 6

 

SK 7 4 (x)

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2

 

 

Say declarer leads a low spade, or plays the ace and a low spade. In the first case, partner may hold the jack. In the second case, partner almost certainly holds the jack because if declarer has SAJx(x), she would probably cross to dummy to take a finesse. In either case, play low smoothly; allow partner to win her (hoped for) jack, and take the king later.

 

       At notrump when you have the AKx(x) and dummy has the Q10x(x)

 

 

SQ 10 9 4

 

When declarer leads low, it is usually right to play low, allowing declarer to make the percentage play of the ten which may lose to partner's jack.

SA K 7 3

 

S? ? ?

 

Sleads 2