Part 2 of our module on defending!
If any of this is unclear, go back and watch Module 7.2 again.
When you are playing level 2 bridge, you will know exactly how many points each player has at the start of the hand. A skillful defender will keep track of this information as they see certain high cards appear during the hand to help them figure out which important cards their partner might have. When you move to playing the full version of the game there will be more guesswork involved but the bidding process will provide many clues. Try to get into the habit of thinking about which of the hands you can’t see is likely to have which high cards and adjusting that thinking as the hand progresses. Counting points in this way will prove very helpful, as will keeping track of cards played in the suits that matter to your side.
We talked in the video about planning what you will do when certain suits are played. These can be difficult decisions but there are a couple of broad principles that will help. Let’s look at the spade suit from the example hand in the video.
|DUMMY||♠ A Q 8|
|YOUR HAND||♠ K J 9|
When you see those honour cards in dummy you know that declarer is likely to lead towards them - what will you play when that happens? If declarer plays a small card, they are very likely to play the queen from dummy, taking the finesse, but there’s nothing to be gained by playing the king and helping them out. You can play the 9 smoothly and now the jack will force the ace on the next round, leaving your king as a winner. If rather than playing a small card, declarer plays the 10 from their hand, you should cover it with the jack. They will probably still play the queen from dummy but now you have ‘promoted’ your 9 to a card that can force the ace on the next round. If you play the 9 when declarer leads the 10, and they take a finesse against both the king and jack by playing the 8 from dummy, you will end up with no tricks at all in the suit.
This example illustrates a principle that you will hear bridge players mention - ‘cover an honour with an honour’. If declarer plays an honour card from their hand then it’s usually right to ‘cover’ it - that is to play a higher honour if you have one. In our example above, when they lead a small card you should not play an honour but when they play the 10, an honour card, you should cover with the jack.
There is an exception to the ‘cover an honour with an honour’ principle, which occurs when you can see that the honour that has been led is the higher of touching honours, so when the suit is led from dummy.
|DUMMY||♠ J T 6 3|
|YOUR HAND||♠ K 9 4|
When declarer plays the jack from dummy, you don’t know which cards they are missing so it makes sense to wait - you can cover the 10 when they lead the suit a second time. Suppose your partner has the singleton queen? If you play the king first time, declarer will play the ace and partner’s queen will fall on the same trick as your king, with both of your sides honours losing to the ace. If you wait, declarer will take the finesse and partner will win with their queen. When declarer takes the finesse a second time by playing the 10, now you cover with the king and when they win with the ace your nine is a winner. Although they are useful guidelines, ‘cover an honour with an honour’ and ‘cover the second of touching honours played from dummy’, are not hard and fast rules. It’s another aspect of the puzzle-solving that is so common in bridge. Think about the cards you can’t see and what will happen if you play bigger cards or not. But remember - think early!
Returning to the example hand in the video, consider the heart suit:
|DUMMY||♥ K J 4 2|
|YOUR HAND||♥ A 9 3|
When declarer leads a small card towards this holding, what are they planning to do? Play the jack, hoping that you have the queen, or play the king hoping you have the ace? You don’t know who has the queen - with luck it’s your partner - so the best approach is to play low smoothly and leave declarer to make whatever guess they have to make.
Finally, don’t forget to think about the hand from declarer’s perspective - use your powers of deduction. You know the ways in which extra tricks can be made, so by watching declarer’s approach to the hand you can often see ways in which you can frustrate their plans. Are they drawing trumps? If not, should you be forcing them to? Are they protecting an entry to a long suit in dummy? Should you be attacking that entry? Do they have a suit on which they can throw losers? If so, you may need to take your winners quickly before it’s too late.
Things to remember: