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44 - December 2023

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Sitting West, you arrange your thirteen

♠ 42
♣ KQJ109

Your opponents’ auction is not particularly


What is your lead?
With a perfect sequence in Clubs, you of course lead the Club King regardless of North’s 2♣ response.

Contract: 3 No-Trump.
Lead: ♣K (the 8 from East).

What is your first impression?
LNorth’s 15 points combined with South’s (12-14HCP balanced without a small doubleton) should make your task rather difficult, as your partner cannot hold more than 4-6HCP (7 + 15 + 12-14 = 34-36H). After some thought, South ducks the first trick, East following with the 8.

How do you interpret this card?
On the lead of the King (which, against No-Trump, promises a perfect or broken sequence of at least three honors) partner must unblock his honor if he has one. If he does not, he gives count. The 8 is therefore the start of an echo, showing a doubleton (or it is a singleton). You continue with the 9, which declarer seizes with the Ace (the 5 from your partner) before continuing with the 5 of Diamonds to his King, East playing the 2.

Visualize the distribution of the Diamond suit
The 2 is a singleton and South has four Diamonds with King-Queen-8.

Why four Diamonds and not three?
South has opened 1 and then showed three Clubs. If he had only three Diamonds, he would have opened with 1♣. Remember that we only open 1 with three cards when we have exactly 4-4-3-2.

Do you have a way of concealing your cards?
Yes. If you keep the tenace with Jack-9 of Diamonds, South will have no choice but to cash the Queen and discover the truth. Thus, “innocently” play the 9 under the King as if it was stiff. This will prompt declarer to cash the Ace to preserve the tenace Queen-8, that you’ve cleverly created for him, in his hand.
When East discards the Queen of Spades on the Ace of Diamonds, South makes a grimace while you smile inwardly. Surprisingly, you find yourself thrown in with the Club 10 on the next trick. This time, East lets go of the Queen of Hearts.

What do these two discards mean?
They tell you that partner had QJ108… in both majors. You cash the Queen of Clubs and see the Heart 7 from partner and Spade 5 from South.

What do you do now?
It is very tempting to continue with the Jack of Clubs, the fourth trick for your side. However, this would be a bad play. Declarer, who has only eight top tricks (Ace-King-Queen of Diamonds, Ace-King of Spades, Ace-King of Hearts and the Ace of Clubs), can only win 3 No-Trump by “strangling” your partner with a squeeze. Here is the position :

After cashing the Jack of Clubs (which collects the Heart 3, Spade 7 and Diamond 8), you can exit with a Heart or a Spade, but when South then cashes his top Diamond, East must let go of his guard in one of the majors.

What is therefore the winning defense?
A switch to a Spade or a Heart.


Whenever you have the opportunity to show your partner that you hold a perfect sequence or to cleverly trick declarer, it would be a shame not to use it to your advantage. What is more, rather than cashing all your tricks without thinking, ask yourself if you are not at risk of helping declarer by reducing the count or squeezing partner in a “suicide squeeze”. If it would be the case, act accordingly.

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Norbert Lébely

Bridge teacher passionate about education, Norbert Lébely contributed to several bestsellers, including the book collection “Step by Step” and the book series “Les clefs du bridge” (Keys to bridge) with Robert Berthe as well as the series “Bien enchérir” (bidding well) with Michel Bessis. He has been working on the software "Step by Step in action" for several years. Picture © Caroline Moreau.

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