Move an important card

Joyce Nicholson ( Australia )

Now in her eighties, Joyce Nicholson did not turn to bridge until late in life though that didn't stop her winning the Australian National Women's Individual in 1983. She is a professional journalist, author and publisher and was awarded membership of the Order of Australia for services to writing and the book-publishing industry. She was the editor and publisher of Australian Bridge from 1985 to 1989 and the author of the controversial Why Women Lose at Bridge.

She has played in the last four Pairs Olympiads and reckons that her old age has been much enlivened by the many international bridge friends she has made particularly members of the press and especially Alan Truscott's drunken ditties!

THIS is a very simple tip, but one that can help an intermediate player who occasionally finds it easy to lose concentration. You may have made a lead or planned a play that involves playing a certain card later in the hand. Maybe the card is not one you would automatically play when the time arises. The recommendation is to move that card to an unusual place in your hand.

For example, you lead MUD, middle up down, and you decide a heart lead is called for.

You lead the six from 862. About three or four rounds later, declarer leads a heart. Your concentration falters, you glance at your hand and automatically play the obvious card from 82 doubleton. You play the two (you give reverse count). You should have played the eight. Immediately you realize what you have done, but it is too late. Partner will think you led from a doubleton. He will get the count of the hand wrong, or lead a heart for you to ruff when next on lead. Horror of horrors!

Therefore, as soon as you lead the six, move the eight away from the two, maybe to the middle of a black suit, or maybe to the other end of your hand. You must do this, of course, without attracting attention, possibly rearranging several cards in your hand. You have to be careful about obviously moving a card that gives information to partner or opponents. When the next lead of a heart is made and you look at your hand, the fact that the hearts are separated immediately sends you a message. You are reminded of your original lead and make the correct play.


Here's a more complicated example:


  South Dealer 10 6 4    


N-S Game

 8 6 3





 Q J





 A K 8 4 2









K 9     5 2

 10 7 4


W                          E

 Q J 9 2

 10 7 6 5



 9 8 4 3 2

 J 10 6 5



 Q 3









 A Q J 8 7 3





 A K 5





 A K





 9 7





You are South and arrive happily in Six Spades. You had been thinking of Seven. Dummy goes down and you feel somewhat dismayed. There is the duplication of points in diamonds, and the mirror situation in the red suits, and the lack of entries to dummy. You have a losing heart. All will be fine if the spade finesse works, but what if West has the king? You will have to set up a club trick by ruffing, to throw away your losing heart. The warning bells ring. You will need to be very careful. If clubs break 4-2, you will need two ruffs and dummy is woefully short of entries.

You think long and hard. If spades break 2-2 and clubs 4-2, you can still make it. There are two possible spade entries in dummy, provided you keep the three in your hand to lead to the six for the third round of spades in dummy.


So, you take the ace of hearts, lead to the ace of clubs in dummy, grateful to see both opponents following. You lead the four of spades to your queen and, as you expected, West has the king. Back comes another heart. They should have led a trump, of course, and then you would be finished. You feel a great surge of relief about this. Then you lead a club to the king and are again overwhelmed with relief that both West and East follow suit. Tension increases. If the spades break 2-2, you are making. You ruff another club, high, and then in your anxiety to find out about the spades, you quickly lead the three of spades to the ten in dummy. Relief, ah relief, the nine comes down from East. You take the trick with dummy's ten, and triumphantly proceed to ruff your fourth club.

Then you look at your hand in dismay. You have wasted the all-important three of spades! You have blocked yourself. You cannot get back to dummy for your club trick. How could you be such an idiot? You have planned the hand so carefully. You have allowed for the bad club break. You have planned to be able to get back to dummy with your three of spades. But you played it carelessly too soon. You are down one. Life isn't fair...

But, had you, when you planned your play originally, moved the three of spades to the middle of your diamonds, you could never have played that precious card by accident.


My BOLS bridge tip is this:


When you have made a lead or planned a play that involves playing a certain card later in the hand, move that card to an unusual place in your hand in order to avoid playing it too soon by accident.

You think you would never do such a foolish thing? Watch enough VuGraph, and you will see how even the top players do strange things occasionally, let alone intermediate players.