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Keep a card to beat dummy

The general guide for the defender playing third to a trick is to play high, choosing the cheaper of touching highest cards. However when dummy has an unplayed picture card that the third player can beat, he should usually keep back his higher card to beat that picture.


 Q 5 2
 4  (led)
  East (you)
(ii)  A J 6
    (ii)  A J 10
    (iii)  K 10 6
    (iv) K109
    (v)  A83

  • (i)  J. You expect this to win (assuming West has  K for his low card lead). You follow with  A (top of two left), then  6, partner’s  K beating dummy’s  Q. In notrumps, partner could then play out any long cards.
  • (ii)  10. Cheaper of  J10.
  • (iii)  10. If this was Trick One in a trump contract, partner would not have underled  A. So your hope is that partner has  J, and that your  10 will force out  A, leaving  K to beat  Q. Even in notrumps, (or at a later trick in a trump contract - where partner may have  A), you will still almost certainly be better off playing  10. Play  K, and dummy’s  Q is bound to score a later trick.
  • (iv)  9. Cheaper of  109.
  • (v)  A.  8 is too insignificant to be worth playing. Play  A, though this will later see  Q promoted.
South Deals
None Vul
8 7 5
A Q 6 4 2
Q 10
J 4 3
10 8 3
A 7 5 3
Q 8 6 2
W   E
K J 9 5
9 8 6 4 2
K 10 5
K Q 9 6 4 3 2
A 9 7
West North East South
Pass 2  Pass 3 1
Pass 4  Pass Pass
  1. Two-and-a-half spades

What happened
West led  2, dummy played  3, and East played K. Declarer won  A and, with one club and one diamond to lose, did not risk the heart finesse. He crossed to  A and led to  K. West won  A, and could only cash Q and  A. 10 tricks and game made.
What should have happened
East must insert  10 at Trick One (key play), to prevent dummy’s J from being promoted. Declarer wins  A and, with four top losers, has to risk the heart finesse.  7 to  Q loses to  K. East cashes  K, leads over to Q, and West cashes  A. Now comes the Coup de Grace, West leading his thirteenth club, East ruffing with  10. Declarer overruffs with  Q, but West must now score both his  AJ. Down three.
If you remember one thing...
As third hand, retain a card to beat dummy.

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