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My Bols Tip
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Yes, I know, there aren't any new Bols Tips, and yes, I know, I'm not qualified to write one, but why should that stop me? This is my Bols Tip: As declarer, if you are going to duck a trick, duck high.

 

This concept is not new. Alan Truscott's terrific article "Never Say Always" (reprinted in the October 2014 Bridge World) recommends leading fourth best against notrump when four-card length is known to be on your right, even from a three-card sequence. In addition to technical advantages (finding partner with a useful singleton or doubleton, knocking out a cheap stopper while partner retains a second card in the suit, etc.), leading low can gain when it shouldn't. For example:

West
AKQ32
North
J4
East
105
South
9876
D

According to Truscott, "now and again, partner will hold ten-low, and declarer will fail to play the jack from dummy's jack-low—very pleasing."

Or:

West
KQJ32
North
104
East
95
South
A876
D

On the 3 lead, South "may easily think that there is no point in playing dummy's ten, on the ground that West 'cannot' have king-queen-jack. It is slightly less easy to see that it is pointless not to play the ten."

 

With my Bols Tip, no analysis is needed: just duck with the highest losing card—oh, look, it won the trick.

The merit of ducking high also arises at the table. This deal is from the final of the 2011 Open Trial (see the March 2012 Bridge World):

Lall
876
AKQJ8763
53
Greco
AQ2
5
KQ6
Q109742
Grue
9543
94
9542
AJ6
Hampson
KJ10
102
AJ10873
K8
W
N
E
S
 
1N
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The auction is a bit strange, but North-South arrived at the normal contract. West, Justin Lall, went for the deep underlead of the 3, which unsuccessfully rode to South's, Hampson's, ten. Reading the situation correctly, Hampson crossed to dummy with a spade and played a low club toward his hand, catching East, Grue, in a sort of Morton's Fork Coup: if he rose with the A to give Lall his ruff, he would only score one trump trick, whereas if he ducked—as he did in practice—West would lose his ruff.

All very interesting, but my Bols Tip was relevant at the other table:

Gitelman
876
AKQJ8763
53
Wooldridge
AQ2
5
KQ6
Q109742
Moss
9543
94
9542
AJ6
Hurd
KJ10
102
AJ10873
K8
W
N
E
S
1NT
4
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Here, Moss, East, led the 9, and Wooldridge correctly ducked high with the 10. As Kit Woolsey said in his analysis, "had declarer ducked {low}, Moss would have known why he was still on lead at trick two." Unfortunately for declarer (and for my tip, I suppose), the defense worked out to take their ruff anyway: Gitelman returned the 6, and Moss flew ace on the first round of clubs to give the ruff for down one.

Some of my most painful memories are from deals where I failed to abide by my Bols Tip. In a knockout match, I reached 2 with a diamond void in hand opposite Q1092. At some point, LHO shifted to a diamond, I inserted the 10 and ruffed RHO's jack. In the fullness of time, I made eight tricks for +110. Only afterward did I learn that West had underled the AK, so I could have ducked high with the Q and won the trick. Had I done so, I would have made an overtrick.

That wouldn't normally be the sort of result that haunts you, but the overtrick would have been worth an IMP, which, coincidentally, was the margin of our loss.

 

Another one cropped up in a BBO matchpoint speedball:

North
K954
52
Q93
QJ52
Kriegel
7
AKJ964
KJ872
8
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P

I faced the lead of the 4 against my poor 4 contract. I ducked the club to East's 10 and ruffed the club return. I cashed the A and led my spade. West pondered for a time before rising with the A and getting out a diamond to East's ace. East returned a spade, which I won in dummy while pitching a diamond, then lost a heart finesse for -100, not a great matchpoint score.

I'm sure you've guessed it already, but West had underled the AK at trick one, from:

West
AJ10
Q8
654
AK943

I didn't exactly think that playing low at trick one would gain, but stupid things have been known to happen: East wins the K from, say, AK9x, returns a diamond to West, who persists with another club. I ruff away the A and enter dummy with the Q for a spade discard. Is that more likely than a ridiculous underlead? I don't know, but next time I'll duck high.

 

As my partners and teammates will attest, I'm usually the bug, but occasionally I get to be the windshield. Here, I was playing with Anam Tebha against a pro-client pair:

West
KQJ9
Qx
Axxx
xxx
North
A10xx
109xxx
x
Q10x
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

The client, on my right, opened 2NT, and the pro bid Stayman then Smolen, but the client was unsure about the sequence and bid 3NT. Warned about spades on my left, I tried a high club, which ran to declarer's jack. She then played AK and another, and Anam won her J as I pitched a diamond, suit-preference for spades.

Anam returned just the card I was hoping to see: the 2, not the suspicious-looking 8. I put up the K, ducked, and returned the 9. Declarer ducked this one too, but she ducked low. My 9 won, and I drove out the A, taking three spades, one heart, and the A for down one. That was good for 10 IMPs when our teammates bid and made 4 at the other table. The full deal:

West
KQJ9
Qx
Axxx
xxx
North
A10xx
109xxx
x
Q10x
East
8xx
Jxx
J9x
xxxx
South
xx
AKx
KQ10xx
AKJ
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

So remember the Bols Tip: If you're going to duck, duck high.

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