Some Tricks of the Trade
Some of these methods are fairly well-known by most. All are standard equipment of the compleat declarer.
WATCH THE SIGNALS AND THE DISCARDS
What are the opponents' carding methods? You might need to know:
If you ask, and an opponent answers, say, "Lavinthal", this can be a good time to observe the other opponent's behavior. Often, A.J. is not playing the same card as his partner; and an inadvertent mannerism might telegraph that fact.
More importantly, however:
Get clarification. Was that discard of a
encouraging, or was it not? Millions of bridge players worldwide,
including many at your own local club, believe that making their first discard
in the suit that they want led is Standard. Not only is that a really
poor defensive method, but announcing it as Standard is both incorrect and,
because it is a private understanding, illegal. In Standard American,
a high card is encouraging in the suit of the discard, and a low card is
discouraging. As declarer, you may need to root out the facts.
AVOID MAKING FALSE CONCLUSIONS FROM A SIGNAL
At Trick Seven, an opponent discards a
deuce. You ask about
the carding, and the response is,
"upside-down attitude." So you
play the signaller for an important key card, which proves to be wrong.
What happened? Were you misinformed? Not necessarily.
You probably were not playing against Average Joe on this occasion.
Your capable defenders already had completed their pertinent signalling to
each other several tricks earlier; and subsequent plays might have been solely
for your benefit.
So many declarers simply cannot seem to assimiliate this concept, probably
because their own defensive carding methods are flawed. You need to be
aware of it yourself, however, and of the opponents' carding agreements as
well. Asking about a play made late in a hand generally is a waste of time;
instead, you need to concentrate on why RHO played his
ace at trick one
rather than the
king, or why LHO echoed in the trump suit, etcetera.
At Trick Seven, a
two is just a
Another situation is when a defender has all the outstanding stuff and knows that he is pretty much on his own. Because partner doesn't need any signals, the defender can play whatever he chooses. He is not there to help you. Average Joe's signals, on the other hand, tend to be honest at all times; but rely upon them at your own risk, of course.
TRY TO INDUCE A CONTINUATION
Everyone is familiar with the Bath Coup, wherein you duck the lead of a
AJx, hoping that the suit
will be led again. There are other possibilities, however, most of which
involve the playing of an unnecessarily high card on the first lead.
For example, a
king is led against your Notrump contract. You hold
8xxx. Consider following
ten. This gambit gives up a sure second stopper; but it also
might prompt LHO to continue the suit, giving you an extra tempo toward setting up
eight when a defensive switch would have proved more profitable.
TRY TO INDUCE A COSTLY COVER
A98xx, which cannot cost. RHO might split his honors for you,
crashing his partner's equal honor. Lead the
A9xxx in your hand for the same reason, but not if RHO could be
short in the suit.
K9xxx. LHO might foolishly cover with
Qxxxx, lead toward dummy if you judge that LHO might have
Kx, or lead the
queen from dummy, hoping that RHO will cover
Kx. This ploy never should work; but occasionally it does.
TRY TO INDUCE A MEANINGLESS COVER
Most players know this one. If you are missing the
trump, the lead of the
jack might prompt a cover that could not possibly
be useful to the defense. Average Joe grasps the concept of
honor-promotion only vaguely, if at all. Somebody once told him to
"cover an honor with an honor", though, so he might do just that.
Be careful not to overdo it, however. If you hold
AJ10x, you can afford to lead to
but overtaking with the
king is risky. if the other defender shows out,
you have just created an extra loser in the suit.
LEAD THE HIGHEST CARD IF YOU WANT IT TO BE COVERED, OTHERWISE NOT
Most players are aware of this one. The lead of a
king is more
likely to be captured than the lead of a
the hand with the
ace might be leery of crashing an honor in partner's
hand. If you want to sneak a trick through, such as when trying to get the
trumps drawn, lead a lesser honor first. Don't be too greedy, though.
A little deception is well and good; but too much of it can backfire.
If you have bid a suit three times, it is not likely to be
and the opponents will know that; so from
KQJ, lead the
In contrast, holding
in dummy, lead the
ten. If that is covered, then finesse the
eight on the way back. Average Jane probably has not figured out in
advance that covering the ten with
K9 doubleton is a
play; therefore, the king most likely is a singleton (assuming, of course, that it
was played in tempo).
There are other such opportunities for inducing an error. With
Kxx, lead the
hoping that it is not covered by the hand with
J10x across from
Axx and you believe that the
suit is splitting
4-3, lead the
jack, because you are hoping for split
honors and you do want the
jack to be covered. If you have
Axx in dummy, lead the
If it is covered, finesse the
nine on the way back; you might not lose any
trick at all!
GIVE THE OPPONENTS OPPORTUNITIES TO GO WRONG
The knowledge that Average Joe will grab most opportunities to win a
trick is a powerful thing. In most situations is is
to assume that A.J. is behaving normally for his skill-level.
Q10x, lead toward
queen; if the
king doesn't pop up, assume that it is not in
LHO's hand. Lead low from
Kxxxx toward a singleton in your hand;
sometimes, RHO will rise with the
ace. Lead low from
xxx in your hand. If RHO has the
king, either he
will play it, or he very likely will reveal its location by a hesitation.
He definitely will not be ready for that particular lead. Even a good player
hard-pressed to duck with, say,
Kx, because it could
prove very costly.
The well-publicized principle of Restricted Choice is a useful guide; yet not only is it nonsensically named, but going with the mathematical odds accomplishes the same effect. The following is a situation of truly restricted choice:
It is reasonable to expect that LHO was restricted from leading a trump due to
the nature of her
Note that this conclusion does not apply if you are missing just
in trumps No one ever would lead a trump in that situation unless the suit
2-1 anyway. Be aware also that this conclusion is valid
only against a reasonably skilled opponent; for Average Joe might not have known
to lead the right thing.