Inferences: Clues from Declarer's Play Part 2

The lesson modules have been designed to build on the Online School Curriculum. They include some Quick Tips to help you focus on the topic.
As a defender, part of your plan should include using clues about partner’s leads and what you can work out from the way declarer plays. Read and watch the video, and then play and review the lesson hands.
If you have more time to spare, you can also complete the earlier lesson on The Defenders’ Plan.


Quick Tips (Thanks again Eddie Kantar)

  • Lots of clues present themselves for the defenders about the way declarer approaches the play of a hand: eg is declarer drawing trumps immediately or not?

  • Is declarer trumping in dummy or trying to set up a side suit before drawing trumps?

  • Think about partner’s lead (and what they didn’t lead), and what it means

  • When partner has bid a suit, and doesn’t lead it, this usually means they do not have the A and K of their suit, but may hold something like AQxxxx

  • If declarer plays a small card up towards the QJ10 in dummy, and you hold the K, and are next to play, do not play your K, because declarer will not hold the A. Why?

  • The reason is that if declarer did hold the A as well as the QJ10, they would be crossing to the hand with the Q, and taking the finesse by playing towards their A


This week’s hand

We are focusing on the defenders’ plan and how you can pick up from the way declarer and partner plays their cards.
Our panel tell us what they’re thinking about after the first trick has been played here.
It’s hand 3 in the hands to play above, and then watch the review afterwards.

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David Appleton

We are playing 4th best leads here. It follows that partner has three more hearts. Also, it is important to note that partner is unlikely to have five diamonds else they would lead those (so declarer is likely to have five). Further, on points, partner has 7-9 points.

If we woodenly play back a heart (the ♥️7 is the normal card), then we need partner to have a minimum of ♥️QTxx, leading to a total of three tricks for us, and would need two more tricks from somewhere before declarer can get nine.

What is most likely to work is for us to switch to a spade, playing partner for ♠AKx(x).

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GeO Tislevoll

Win the first trick with the ♥️King and return a heart. Usually we return the highest from two remaining (♥️7) and lowest from three remaining cards, this to help partner in discovering the layout of the suit he led. You have no good reason to switch to another suit. Partner has around 8 high card points (give or take) and if his heart suit is ok (♥️QJxx or ♥️Q10xx) we might have time to set up enough trick to beat the contract.
Partner did not lead a diamond, so he normally has at most four cards in that suit, as he would have led a diamond from a longer suit than the four hearts we know he has, so, the declarer has a diamond suit. This might be a typical no trump hand where it is a fight between the declarer and the defenders about getting their suit established first. We got a good start with the heart lead.

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Matt Smith

Win the ♥️K and return the ♥️7. Partner has at most 9 high card points, four hearts and probably four diamonds (they didn't lead one). Declarer probably has five diamonds.
I'm going to hope partner holds this sort of hand: ♠Txx ♥️QTxx ♦️AQxx ♣xx
Declarer only had eight tricks and needs to set up the diamonds. We'll win three heart tricks and the ♦️AQ to beat 3NT by one trick.
Switching a spade at trick two could also be right. If partner has: ♠KTx ♥️QJxx ♦️Kxxx ♣xx.
If declarer rises with the ♠A, we will get three spade tricks + one heart + ♦️K for one down. If declarer ducks their ♠A, partner can switch back to hearts to beat 3NT by one.
I think returning a heart at trick two and hoping partner has the ♦️AQ is the percentage play.



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Joan Butts

Here it might seem correct to switch from hearts to develop enough tricks, but IF declarer has losers in diamonds, partner will win these anyway, so it’s just as good to continue hearts. It’s not always correct to return partner’s lead, but you need to have a very good reason not to!


Related Workbook

The Defence Workbook contains hands analysis and lesson tips and tricks.


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