Mike’s Bidding Quiz


The holdup

Last week’s article on the holdup by declarer was not as clear as it could have been.

This week’s piece is similar but makes the author’s points more clearly with a few changes.

When you start to play bridge, the first thing you learn is that taking tricks is good. This is true, but you have to be selective in the tricks you take. If you win the first nine tricks, that is just as good as losing the first four and winning the last nine.

Alternatively, if you lose two tricks, then win two and lose one, then win five, lose one and then win the rest, that totals nine tricks and is just as good a result as winning any other combination of nine tricks.

It usually takes awhile to learn that if the goal is nine tricks, it does not matter which nine are taken. The next thing to learn is that in some cases, you must lose some tricks along the way in order to maximize the chances of making your contract.

Here is one simple example. Assume you are playing IMPs, where making your contract takes precedence over making overtricks.

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

West leads the ♠K, which you duck. East signals with the jack. West continues with the ♠Q. It is right to duck this one, too. Even if the clubs are good, you have only 11 tricks, so losing this trick won’t cost you anything. East plays low on this spade.

West continues with the ♠9. Is this the time to take the ace?

If you are playing matchpoints, greed tends to triumph in these cases, so taking the spade and hoping for 11 tricks is okay. If you are playing IMPs, there is a lot to be said for ducking this one, too.


You are not sure the clubs are running. Say you take the third spade, East following. Do you know how the spades divide? It is possible that East has the last two spades, and it is possible that West has the last two spades. By ducking this spade trick and taking the next spade, if that is what the defense leads, you will see if either opponent started with five spades.

Say East started with five spades, West having led from ♠K Q 9. You would play clubs by cashing the king and finessing on the next round unless the queen appeared.

This would ensure that you could set up five club tricks without letting East gain the lead.

If West was the one with five spades, you would enter your hand with the A and lead the ♣9, finessing it into East. If East wins the ♣Q, he won’t have any more spades and you will have nine tricks. It may look odd to take just nine tricks when 11 are available, but it is an honorable nine tricks that will be a useful score.

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