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Counting on Defense
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Counting on Defense

Quick Overview

Learning to count as a defender is crucial. This lesson will help you improve your defense.

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Details

Approximate running time: 110 minutes.

Marty's audio visual format significantly enhances your learning experience:

  • The combination of voice and visual effects makes it easier to understand what Marty is teaching.
  • The lesson is interactive, so students "learn by doing."
  • You can proceed at your own pace.
  • You can play and replay all or some of the lesson whenever you choose as many times as you like.
  • The lesson includes a written easy to read transcript for you to study.
  • The lesson contains several hours of extensive material.
  • The lesson is designed to work on most popular computers and browsers, including Windows, Mac, and iPad.

In this lesson:

"Counting to a bridge player is similar to an actor learning his lines. It doesn't guarantee success, but he can't succeed without it." - George Kaufman, esteemed playwright and prominent bridge player

As important as it is for declarer to count, for the defenders counting is even more crucial. Counting involves effort.

Unfortunately, many players are unwilling to put in the work needed.  As a result, although at least 1/2 of your opponents' contracts can be defeated, more than 3/4 of them are fulfilled. If you can learn to defend even fairly well, you are virtually guaranteed to be a successful player.

What must defenders count?

  • Distribution
  • High Card Points (HCP)
  • Number of tricks

Use the following clues to count distribution:

  • Bids and doubles that other players made
  • Bids and doubles that other players did NOT make
  • What you know each time a player shows out of a suit
  • Partner's count signals

As soon as dummy is tabled, always try to count HCP. The best situations to do this are when declarer has made a bid which narrowly defines his HCP range. As you know, most notrump bids are well-defined.

Whenever possible, count the potential number of tricks:

  • For the defense
  • For declarers

In this lesson, Marty will discuss how counting can:

  • Enable your side to be the only pair to defeat seemingly "ice-cold" contracts
  • Help you find the killing opening lead
  • Locate a singleton in partner's hand and give him a ruff
  • Help you to prevent declarer from setting up a suit
  • Tell you exactly what is your only chance to defeat the contract
  • Help partner find the best defense
  • Bids and doubles that other players made
  • Tell you when to say "NO" to second-hand low
  • Let you KNOW the location of missing honors
  • Help you resolve the active vs. passive dilemma
  • Enable you to mislead declarer because you know something that he doesn't

Here is an example of what Marty will discuss:

  North
♠ 765
 AQ
 AK9853
♣ A5
 
West (You)
♠ KQ10
 J542
 64
♣ J764
 
 
 

  North   South

1
2

2
3

3♠
4NT

5
6

You lead the ♠K.

The N-S auction was based on 2/1 game forcing, control-bids, and 1430. The 5 response to 4NT showed 2 key cards without the Q or extra length. FYI: With the North hand, Marty would have bid 5NT over 5  to promise all the key cards and trump queen, and try for seven.

You lead the ♠K against their 6 slam. 

Trick 1: Declarer wins the♠A. Partner plays the ♠2.
Trick 2: Declarer cashes his Q.
Trick 3: Declarer leads to dummy's A. Partner follows with the 7.
Trick 4: Dummy plays the Q. Your partner discards the ♠9.
Trick 5: Dummy plays the K. Declarer discards his ♠J.
Trick 6: Dummy's 3 is ruffed by declarer with his 10.

Question 1: Do you over-ruff?

Question 2: If you do over-ruff, what do you lead at trick 7?

Answers

Question 1: Do you over-ruff?

YES! If you fail to over-ruff, declarer will cash his K and lead another heart. After this, he has 12 winners: 5 hearts, 5 diamonds, and 2 black aces. After giving you your J, he still has a trump left, so he will ruff your ♠Q. Then he will lead to dummy's ♣A, and discard his three remaining clubs on dummy's 3 diamond winners. 

Question 2: If you do over-ruff, what do you lead at trick 7?

You must lead a club and hope partner has the ♣K. Declarer's only entry to dummy's three winning diamonds is the ♣A, and you must hope to remove it while you still have a trump. If declarer has the♣K, there is no hope to defeat the contract. But if partner has it, your club shift will defeat 6.

Challenging Question 3

If your clubs were ♣KJ64, after you correctly over-ruffed at trick 6, what would you lead at trick 7?

You must lead the ♣K to knock out dummy's entry while you still have a trump left. This play is known as a Merrimac Coup. If you lead any other club, declarer will let it ride to his ♣Q, draw your last trump, and lead to dummy's ♣A and run diamonds.

Here is the entire deal

  North
♠ 765
 AQ
 AK9853
♣ A5
 
West
♠ KQ10
 J542
 64
♣ J764
East
♠ 98432
 7
 J1072
♣ K32
  South
♠ AJ
 K109863
 Q
♣ Q1098
 

And here is the revised deal based on challenging question 3::

  North
♠ 765
 AQ
 AK9853
♣ A5
 
West
♠ KQ10
 J542
 64
♣ KJ64
East
♠ 98432
 7
 J1072
♣ 732
  South
♠ AJ
 K109863
 Q
♣ Q1098
 

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