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Dormer on Discovery

Discovery of high cards

Previous articles in this series have been devoted mainly to the ways in which a declarer may discover the suit patterns in the opposing hands. A somewhat less common form of discovery play may arise when declarer is bent on locating high cards in the opposing hand.
The secret of this form of discovery is very easily explained. Declarer first forces out those high cards that do not affect his contract. He hopes that in the process, clues will be gained as to the whereabouts of remaining high cards that do affect his contract. For example:

♠ A 7 5 2
Q 7 4 2
8 5 3
♣ Q 10
♠ Q J 10 9 6 4
K
Q 10
♣ A K J 9
West North East South
Pass Pass Pass 1♠
Pass 2♠ Pass 4♠
All Pass

West leads the K and continues with the K and another of the suit, declarer ruffing East’s jack. This leaves only two high cards of any import still lurking in the defenders’ hands — the ♠K and the A.
To the uninitiated, the location of the A may seem quite immaterial, since the contract depends solely on whether declarer can pick up the ♠K. But to the declarer well versed in the art of discovery, the position of the A is viewed from quite a different angle. If it should happen that West, who has passed originally and who has already shown up with the AK, also has the A, then he surely cannot have the ♠K. To find out whether this is indeed the case, declarer, before touching trumps, dislodges the A. If West wins the trick, declarer intends to play East for the singleton king of trumps as his only chance.
In the process of forcing out unimportant cards, a certain cunning may pay dividends. In the previous hand, for example, one would not simply fix the opponents with a beady eye and bang down the K. It costs nothing to first cross to dummy with a club to lead a low heart from the table, even though the chances of East ducking with the ace are admittedly remote.
This leads quite naturally to the conclusion that, when bent on discovery, it will often be more illuminating to lead a suit from the table, rather than from the closed hand, even if you have no hope of establishing a trick in it. Suppose that in the previous example the heart situation had been a little different:

♠ A 7 5 2
Q 7 4 2
8 5 3
♣ Q 10
♠ Q J 10 9 6 4
8
Q 10
♣ A K J 9

Perhaps you reached only a partscore this time, but that makes no difference, since you still want to make 10 tricks. After ruffing the third diamond, you again cross to dummy with a club to lead a heart, for East’s reaction is sure to be of interest. If he has the ace, he will probably play it, for after dummy’s ♣Q wins, he will place you with a shortage in hearts. Therefore, if a competent East doesn’t play the ace, you should place West with that card and play the trumps accordingly. Alternatively, if East happens to have both the ace and the K, he will probably put up the king when you lead one from the table. Now you will know that West has neither the of the top heart honors, so there will be no reason not to take the normal finesse against him for the ♠K. Observe that these inferences would not be available if you were to tackle the hearts by simply leading the suit from your own hand.
Here is another example of the advantage of leading from the dummy towards the closed hand:

 Dummy
♠ 9 7 3
 Declarer
♠ J 5

This is a side suit at a trump contract and there is no way either of the losers can be avoided. To learn the maximum, declarer should enter dummy with another suit and lead a low spade. If East plays the queen, you can place him with the K-Q, while if he plays the king, you can assume he has the A-K. Should East happen to play low, there is a good chance you will be able to place the remaining honors in the suit after West has captured your jack.
Continued next week