Saturday, August 14, 2010

Show and Tell – More on Defensive Strategy

The bridge defender's dilemma: when you make a discard (or other signal) do you:
  • show partner where you have something; or
  • direct the defense by telling him what to do?
Often these come to the same thing in which case there's no problem.  But not always.  Note that I'm not talking about deceptive carding here, that's a separate subject.  The assumption is that we want to give partner good information and we're not too concerned about declarer seeing it too.

At first glance, it seems like we might be able to make an agreement with our partner: I'll always show you where I have high cards; or I'll always help you find the right defense.  But that idea of course would be nonsense.  You want to do different things at different times.  The trick is knowing what partner is telling you on any given hand.  How can you figure it out?

First, I think we have to assume that partner is an intelligent, sentient bridge player who was also listening to the auction and can clearly see the dummy!  He already knows which tricks might be going away and where declarer's weakness might be.  In particular, he can see if dummy has a dangerous suit or whether declarer is going to have to make his tricks the hard way.

So, my suggestion for the key to which defensive strategy should be (or is being) employed is this: urgency.  It stands to reason that the degree of urgency is greatest when the opponents are in a distributional suit slam and least when they're in a balanced 1NT contract.

Thus the following seems like a reasonable rule:
  • if the situation is urgent, direct the defense by telling partner what to do;
  • otherwise, show partner where you have a useful card or two.
Let's take a couple of examples, all assuming standard bidding and carding.  You are dealt the following hand at teams: ♠976 K953 7 ♣A9876.  Partner deals and opens 1, RHO bids 1♠ and you contribute 2.  LHO bids 3, partner passes and RHO closes the auction with 3♠.  You decide to lead your singleton 7 and the following dummy comes down: ♠AT4 J74 AT8 ♣QT53.  The first trick is made up of the 8, 9 and declarer's J after which the ♠Q is passed around to partner's K (not declarer's best play).  Partner leads the ♣4 which you win, returning the ♣6 for partner to ruff.  At this point, we have three tricks, but partner isn't sure what you want returned (declarer followed to the two club tricks with the K and J so that the location of the ♣2 is still unknown).  In order to figure out whether you want a diamond ruff or whether we can cash two heart tricks, partner plays the A.  You know that a second trick won't stand up (partner can't be sure) and your trumps will be drawn if you don't get a diamond ruff immediately.  Urgency suggests direction (telling) over information.  Therefore, even though you actually have the K, you play a discouraging 3.  You get your diamond ruff for a set, instead of letting them make.

Here's another hand: all are vulnerable at matchpoints and you deal yourself ♠A54 62 KQ82 ♣J863.  Your LHO opens 1 and RHO bids 1NT which is passed out.  You choose the ♠4 as your lead, eschewing the good diamond suit (this actually works out rather well).  Dummy is ♠982 KQ874 AJ ♣Q95 and partner's J is won by declarer's K.  Declarer now sets about enjoying the hearts, having started with A9 in his own hand.  On dummy's Q, you have to discard and you know that partner will be winning the next trick.  What should you discard?  You'd like partner to continue with spades of course, but he'll likely be doing that anyway.  Is there anything that you think partner needs to know about your assets (he knows you have between 10 and 14 hcp but he doesn't know where they are exactly).  He's also expecting you to have 4234 shape (he can only see four clubs so if you don't have four, declarer has six).  I think he needs to know that you have a stopper in diamonds (if he happens to have the T, we may even be able to get 3S, 1H, 3D and 1C).  I believe that you should show your diamond values by discarding the 8.  There's no great urgency here, so our signal should be seen as informative (showing) rather than directing.

When I played this board recently, my partner holding the hand given, discarded the 2 (because he wanted spades continued, i.e. he was telling, rather than showing).  But I assumed he was showing.  Figuring then that partner must have the ♣K and only one of the honors, I wanted us to be able to cash out our clubs when the spades were finished.  Since I held the singleton ♣A, I felt that it was essential to cash it before running the spades (I held QJ63 originally).  Declarer now took 1S, 4H, 1D and 2C for an overtrick.  Although Deep Finesse says that declarer should always make the overtrick, our declarer wasn't going to without our help.

So, if potential tricks could go away quickly unless you metaphorically kick partner in the pants, tell him/her what to do.  If an active defense is likely to give away tricks, use your signals to show partner where you have useful values.

No comments:

Post a Comment