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Dormer on Deception

Deception in the Trump Suit

Occasionally in this not-always-happy life, it will come to pass that Lady Luck has bestowed on your opponents a goodly share of high cards in the trump suit. The declarer schooled in the art of deception, however, not wont to give up the battle without a fight, can sometimes have the last laugh on both the Lady and his opponents. For example, suppose you are the declarer in these two cases:
(1)

 North (Dummy)
Q J x x
South (Declarer)
10 9 x x x x

(2)

 North (Dummy)
J x x x
South (Declarer)
10 x x x x

It would be wrong to automatically reconcile yourself to the loss of obvious tricks. Instead you should activate your grey cells in search of a deceptive play. In (1), leading from the closed hand in the hopes that West will play the king from K-x offers virtually no chance of success, since West, observing that you have not taken a finesse, will realize that East must have the ace. The better ploy is to cross to dummy and lead the queen, hoping that East might be chump enough to cover with K-x.
Similarly, in (2), the lead of the jack from dummy may persuade East to split his honors with K-Q-x, or to play the ace from A-Q-x. Of course, the jack lead would cost a trick if West had all the outstanding cards, but in that case you would probably have already heard from him in a voice fit to call the cattle home across the Sands o’Dee.
The deceptive plays which really bring in the points are those which are not quite so obvious as these. It was remarked in an earlier article that the best magician in the world can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat if there isn’t already a rabbit in the hat. The average declarer, however, sometimes fails to produce the rodent when it is there for the taking. A case on point:

 North (Dummy)
Q x x
South (Declarer)
J 9 x x x x

First, let’s consider the standard (that is to say, non-deceptive) way of playing this combination, which is to lead low to the queen. If the damsel then loses to East’s king or ace, declarer intends to lead low from dummy on the next round. This hold the opponents to two tricks — if they can be held to two tricks — more often than any other method, and most declarers would never think of playing the combination any other way.
Nevertheless, there are cases where the bidding may tell you that this is not the best way to play this suit. Because, by leading the queen from dummy, you can conceivably hold the opponents to one trick if East happens to have K-10-8 and is unwise enough to cover. The big question therefore is: How can you tell whether it is safe to try this ruse?
The fact is that the queen-lead will cost a trick only if East is void or has a singleton 8. The bidding, may enable you to exclude this possibility. For example, East may have bid notrump somewhere along the line, and in that case leading the queen first cannot cost. Much more common, though, and equally safe for practical purposes, is the case where West has overcalled in a suit and East has not supported him, as in this sequence:

South West North East
1 1♠ 2 All Pass

On this auction, the chances of East having a singleton heart are just about nil. So, with the trump combination shown, cross to dummy and lead the queen like a man!
Note the principle in operation here: If you can exclude the chance of one opponent being short in your suit, consider whether there may be an advantage in leading a high card through him. Some further examples:

 North (Dummy)
Q x x x
South (Declarer)
10 x x x x

If East is unlikely to have a singleton, it costs nothing to enter dummy and lead the queen! Should this induce East to cover with A-J-x or K-J-x, you will get your name in lights.

North (Dummy)
West 9 x x East
8 Q J 10 x
South (Declarer)
A K 7 x x

Here, a trick has to be lost even if the suit is divided 3-2, so it must be right to lead the 9 from dummy, intending to let it ride if not covered. If West happens to have the singleton 8, as in the layout shown, the precaution saves a trick. (If East splits, you simply win, return to dummy and finesse the 7.)
Now suppose that West’s singleton is not the 8, but the queen, jack or 10. In any of these cases East, with J-10-8-x, Q-10-8-x or Q-J-8-x, will be sorely tempted to cover the 9. If he does, you win, reenter dummy in another suit, and again you have saved a trick.

 North (Dummy)
J x x x
South (Declarer)
A K 10 9 x

Almost everyone is familiar with the deceptive approach to this combination. Declarer intends to make the normal percentage play of laying down the ace and king, but it cannot hurt to cross to dummy and lead the jack first on the off-chance that East might cover. But how many would apply the very same principle to this layout?:

 North (Dummy)
10 x x x
South (Declarer)
A K Q 7 x

Only a painstaking declarer would think of leading the 10 from dummy in an attempt to induce East to cover if he holds J-9-8-x. Should East fall into the trap, declarer can return to dummy (assuming he has the entries) and pick up the entire suit.
You may think that most of the situations described here will not occur very often. But I can assure you that during your bridge career they will come up much more frequently than, say clash squeezes or smother plays. And you will find them a whole lot easier to execute, too!