Duck when you don't have the   ace!

Michel Lebel ( France )

MICHEL LEBEL was born in 1944 in Romania but now lives in Nantes, France. A WBF Grand Master, he has won the World Teams Olympiad twice, the European Teams twice and the European Pairs once. He is bridge columnist of Le Point and the author or co-author of many books.

Successful defence often requires that you should take all possible measures to shut out dummy's long suit. You must do all you can to spoil declarer's communications.

Sitting over dummy's KQ109x, you will, as a matter of course, hold off with AJx when dummy's king is played. But when the ten is finessed? The position is essentially the same; to kill the suit it may be necessary to hold off, persuading declarer to finesse the nine next time. If you win the ten with the jack he will have better communications, obviously.

My tip is that you should sometimes hold up the jack even when you do not possess the ace. You will find that quite remarkable results can be obtained. On the following deal I held the East cards:


  South Dealer A 6 4    


Game All

 8 2





 K Q 10 9 6 3





 8 3









J 9 3     10 8 5 2

 Q 9 4 3


W                          E

 J 7 5

 A 5 4



 J 8

 K J 2



 Q 7 6 5









K Q 7





 A K 10 6





 7 2



A 10 9 4

South opened 1NT, North raised to 3NT, and West led the three of hearts, East's jack losing to declarer's king. South played a low diamond to dummy's nine and East, without any hesitation, allowed the nine to win!

South quite naturally came back to his hand with a spade and repeated the finesse. When the ten lost to the jack he could no longer make nine tricks as he was short of entries to bring in the diamonds.

In the next example, after the same bidding, West led the jack of spades against South's 3NT:



  South Dealer 8 6 2    


N-S Game 

 10 4





 A Q 10 9 6 3





 7 4









J 10 9     Q 5 4 3

 K 8 7


W                          E

 J 9 3 2

 K 4 2



 J 7

 K J 8 5



 Q 6 2









A J 7





 A Q 6 5





 8 5





 A 10 9 3



South won the first trick with the king of spades and ran the eight of diamonds ... which held the trick! South continued with the five of diamonds and paused when West produced a low diamond. Either West held KJxx, thought South, in which case the contract was bound to fail, or East had tried a desperate measure, holding up the king from Kx.

South decided to go up with the ace, believing this was the only chance to make the contract ... and he nearly fell off his chair when the jack appeared. Once again, it is clear that holding up the jack is the only way to lead declarer astray.


EXTENDING the same principle, observe how the hold-up makes declarer's task more difficult on this deal:


West Dealer

A 6 2    


Love All

 8 4





 K 10 9 8 5 2





 9 7









J 10 9 4 3     7 5

 Q 10 3


W                          E

 J 9 6 5 2

 A Q 7



 J 3

 Q 8



 A 10 4 3









 K Q 8





 A K 7





 6 4





 K J 6 5 2



West leads the jack of spades against 3NT and South wins with the king. He leads the four of diamonds to the second trick, West plays the seven and dummy the eight.

If East wins with the jack, the contract will surely be made, as South will easily establish the diamonds, with the ace of spades for entry. But if East ducks the first diamond, South will come back to his hand with a heart and lead his second diamond. When West produces the queen, the declarer may conclude that East has held up the ace and that the suit is distributed in this fashion:








    A 3


   6 4


If South forms this opinion he will duck on the second round. It is true that East's hold-up, with Ax, would be a mistake, but it is not so unlikely a mistake.

My BOLS bridge tip is this:

Whenever dummy has a suit such as AQ109x or KQ109x, and appears to be short of entries, be willing to hold off with Jx.

You may well find that this daring manoeuvre offers the only real chance of preventing declarer from bringing in the long suit.