Join Bridge Winners
On Hx and Benito's Secret
(Page of 11)

The defensive strategy of playing the opponent's strong suit at a time when it does not suit declarer is well-known. There are several ways in which this can gain.

1. Running dummy's suit puts pressure on declarer

 From Reese's The Expert Game:

West
A102
K984
10862
J10
North
J75
AKQ73
Q7652
East
Q864
J1053
94
K94
South
K93
AQ762
J5
A83
W
N
E
S
3NT
D
1

 Reese writes:

"South was in 3NT and West led J. South won the ace and returned a club, allowing West to hold the trick with the 10. West led a low diamond, won by the jack, and a third club went to East's King.

East could see that South had five winners in diamonds and three in clubs. It was too much to hope that the defenders could take three tricks in either hearts or spades, so East played a passive game, returning a diamond to dummy.

This play proved surprisingly effective. South ran off the minor suit winners, but when it came to the last one he was badly placed, for his last four cards were K93 and A and he still had a discard to find. As West, with K and A102 was over him, South was squeezed and could not take another trick."

2. To cut declarer off from dummy's suit

North
10xx
xx
J8x
AQJxx
East
Axxx
Axx
Q10
9xxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Partner leads Q. The defense most likely to succeed is to win A and play a club, then win the first round of trumps and play another club.

The deal was originally posted and discussed here, with only 1/3rd of those currently polled selecting a club:

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/can-you-find-this-defence/

A slightly-flawed example of a similar play can be seen here:

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/defensive-problem-from-indian-selection-trials/

3. To endplay dummy

West
864
A973
Q72
K96
North
AKQ952
104
A108
73
East
J73
862
K643
A105
South
10
KQJ5
J95
QJ842
W
N
E
S
3NT
D
1

From Reese's Bridge at the Top:

"... the opponents at the other table reached 3NT. Declarer won the first trick with the 10. What next?

In practice a heart was returned to the queen and ace. Rodrigue and Tarlo then played a smart defence: they cashed A and K, and then exited with a spade. If dummy wins (at the table South it run to his 10 withour success) there will be two diamonds to lose at the finish."

4. Benito's Secret

In an article of that name (The Bridge World, June 1993), David Weiss discusses deal 20 (rotated here) from the 1979 Bermuda Bowl.

North
QJ732
J102
AQ8
KJ
East
K10965
A5
965
853
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3N
P
P
P

West leads a fourth-highest four of clubs: king, three, nine.

South crosses to the the A and leads the diamond four: ten, ace, five.

Declarer plays a big spade from dummy which you win while he pitches a low heart.

What next?

Weiss writes:

"Setting this as a problem alerts you that something out of the ordinary may be called for; still, the club return seems normal. Even with the bell ringing, it is hard to fathom why Benito Garozzo returned a diamond. Yet that was the way to defeat the contract."

West
84
Q873
104
A7642
North
QJ732
J102
AQ8
KJ
East
K10965
A5
965
853
South
A
K964
KJ732
Q109
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Weiss:

"Declarer won the trick in dummy to cash his eighth trick, the spade jack, while he still could. He would then knock out the club ace to set up his ninth. But Garozzo got the heart ace plus two more spades. [On a strictly double-dummy basis, declarer can make the contract by leaving the high spade in dummy and running diamonds.--Ed.]

Deservedly, this defense was much admired. But how did Garozzo find it? Benito has not shared his secret. Did he visualize the whole deal? Perhaps so. But we lesser mortals can also achieve such defenses occasionally if we can extract the relevant principle.

When defending a misfit notrump contract, if no clear path to a set is available, attack the communication suit. The communication suit is the one in which the declarer's honors are solid or close to solid, and split between the two hands."

 

While agreeing with Weiss that, on certain deals, one should "attack the communication suit", I think there is a little more we can say about Benito's secret. Here's a hand to illustrate:

West
87652
A97
865
KQ
North
J10
8643
AKJ10
A73
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Note: 1NT = 12-14

You are playing standard carding and lead 8: Jack, Queen, King.

Declarer leads a low club: Queen, three, nine.

You continue with a second spade: ten, four, ace.

South plays another club: king, seven, ten.

You play...?

 

 

West
87652
A97
865
KQ
North
J10
8643
AKJ10
A73
East
Q43
QJ10
9743
J109
South
AK9
K52
Q2
86542
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The deal above was misanalysed in an English newspaper in 2011 and discussed in Defend With Your Memory (The Bridge World, August 2012). Playing a diamond while the clubs are blocked allows declarer to choose which minor suit winners he abandons.

From Defend With Your Memory:

"At the key point in both deals, declarer had a doubleton honor [Qx] opposite a high honors with some length in a suit that they wished to use for entries. Where declarer has “unfinished business”, ie a suit to unblock [deal above] or a stopper to knock out [Benito's Secret deal], the defenders can prevail by playing that suit before it suits declarer."

Now Benito's secret is becoming a little less mysterious. If the defenders play declarer's suit of Hx opposite HHx(...) while he has communication "issues", they may create an insoluble problem for him.

This article began by discussing "the defensive strategy of playing the opponent's strong suit". But how strong is "strong", when we are considering playing declarer's "Hx" suit?

Here is a composition that reduces the matter to the basics:

West
7654
A109
A109
765
North
KQ3
Q6543
Q654
A
East
J1098
K87
K87
432
South
A2
J2
J32
KQJ1098
W
N
E
S
3NT
D
1

A spade lead ruins the entries and is the only lead to defeat 3NT

It never hurts to practice... here is another example, from Sydney's rubber bridge game at the Double Bay Bridge Centre:

North
5
Q862
KQ7632
J10
East
J62
J43
J105
K542
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

Some explanations are in order:

Your partner and declarer are world-class players while North is regarded at the club as a very fine person to have as dummy. His partners bid accordingly.

2 was natural, forcing and Staymanic in principle. Carding is standard.

Partner leads a fourth-highest heart five: 2, J, Ace

Declarer plays 6: 3, 10... your move.

West
A974
K1075
84
A73
North
5
Q862
KQ7632
J10
East
J62
J43
J105
K542
South
KQ1083
A9
A9
Q986
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

This deal appeared in Two Steps Ahead (The Bridge World, October 2008).

Declarer can hardly have AQ, so there is another club honour to be knocked out. This constitutes "unfinished business", as in the Garozzo deal, and again diamonds is the "Hx" suit.

From Two Steps Ahead:

"Your reaction should be that this line of play looks a little strange. Why didn’t declarer apply pressure by cashing six diamonds? At the table, East surmised that South must have a good reason, so he won with the club king and returned a diamond, ruining declarer’s communications. On the run of the diamonds, East discarded his remaining hearts, so West knew to take dummy’s black-suit exit, cash the other black ace, then continue with the heart ten. Declarer was left to contemplate that, had he not underestimated his opponent, he could have succeeded by putting up dummy’s queen of hearts at trick one and setting up a ninth trick in spades..."

 

So how common is this "play their Hx" scenario? Well, the first deal of this article contains such an instance. Reese applauds East's diamond continuation, but it was West's original diamond switch, attacking declarer's Jx, that prevented South from cashing his nine winners.

And Steve Bloom shows us an excellent counter, unscrambling his entries, after an opening lead threatened his communications (another Qx!) in this fine article:

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/hard-to-see/

So declarer is not always helpless... the astute player can sometimes organise counter-moves. Here is a brilliant example that appeared in an earlier Bridge Winners article:

North
K543
543
1094
A76
South
A2
A102
K32
K5432
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
1NT
P
P
P

West leads Q and continues hearts; winning the third round shows that East began with Kxxx.

To simplify matters, a bridge fairy hovers at your ear and tells you that East has QJ10.

Ducking a club will provide an easy seven tricks. Or will it?

The original article is here:

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/amazing-play-by-milton-rosenberg/

I have composed the following layout for clarity:

West
Q106
QJ9
AQJ65
98
North
K543
543
1094
A76
East
J987
K876
87
QJ10
South
A2
A102
K32
K5432
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

South, Milton Rosenberg, could see that if East won a ducked round of clubs, the last heart would force the discard of a low spade from his hand. The opponents could then cross to West's diamond honour and, with the spade suit now blocked, play a club, the "Hx" suit, ruining Milton's communications.

His solution? He cashed the A and then ducked a club. He now had a free spade to discard and, with no blockage, the path to seven tricks was straight-forward.

This is an exceptional hand: Rosenberg foresaw the upcoming spade blockage and potential for the opponent's club "Hx" attack, and found a most elegant response.

Now there is a player who truly understands Benito's secret!

11 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top