PATTERNS D1 - DEFENSE
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Declarer´s play with the aid of pattern analysis have been discussed in a series of articles posted by myself in this great forum of Bridge Winners, during more than a year. Now, I think, the time has arrived to present some analysis of bridge defense under the perspective of distributional laws, which in my opinion represents the main objective in using the patterns of the hands as easier references in the disclosure of the hidden hands. Pattern´s play means using a 75% of probabilities in favor of imagining a hidden hand, so, why not use the same advantage in the disclosure of declarer´s hand? I certainly believe that following the defensive approach devised in the past by Helge Vinje, but from the very beginning of the defensive play, results could improve even at the highest levels of expertise.

My original investigations dated from more than twenty years ago but the examples shown in reference to defensive play, in this and other articles to follow, are the result of a very recent research done over the more important tournaments of present or recent years, as an effort to bring closer the remembrance of the deals, and, in trying to place the site at the highest technical level, I have chosen only those boards played in semifinals or finals by the teams who were the winners of the tournaments.

Before proceeding, let´s review the abbreviations that have been used in previous articles of "patterns" and will continue to be used on:

PT          Distributional Pattern Type of a bridge hand (ODD or EVEN)

DS26      Distributional Scheme of two seen hands (player´s + dummy´s), formed by four initials representing the sum of cards in each suit. Example: O-E-O-E (ODD sum in spades, EVEN in hearts, ODD in diamonds and EVEN in clubs).

DS13      Distributional Scheme of a hidden hand (approximate), defined by four initials representing the relative number of cards it has in each suit. Example: O-E-O-E (ODD number of spades, EVEN of hearts, ODD in diamonds and EVEN in clubs). In any DS13 one of the suits has the wrong relative count until discovering the position of his 4th suit.

4th SUIT: The suit of a bridge hand with a number of cards contrary to the pattern. Example: in a hand with 4/4/3/2, diamonds with an odd number of cards is the 4th suit.

First goes first, experts say, and even at the risk that in this forum may appear again a comment saying that playing in such way is not bridge, I will start exposing the axiom of patterns defensive play: "Partner, give me the information of your hand´s pattern at first trick, so I can deduce fairly accurately declarer´s distribution. If by any chance or convention, the signal given is made in the leader´s 4th suit, the hole hand of declarer will be fully disclosed to his partner at first trick."

How to deduce the approximate and relative shape of declarer´s hand (DS13), in which three of the four suits are perfectly defined, is simple: If partner marks an ODD PT, defender´s DS26 will be similar to declarer’s DS13, and on the other hand, if partner signals an EVEN pattern, declarer’s DS13 will be the opposed to such scheme. Example: defender is looking a DS26 in the form of E-E-O-O. If partner signals an ODD PT declarer’s DS13 is the same. If partner marks an EVEN PT, declarer’s DS13 is O-O-E-E.

Of course, to transform initials to numbers in a DS13 you need to apply bridge logic, beginning with the information given in the auction and ending with some deductions related with the level of the contract, and your capacity for putting in place each number in each suit. As a general approach, the following suggestions should be used:

• Use the percentage´s law of BALANCED DISTRIBUTIONS for the reminder of suits you don´t know for sure in declarer´s hand.

• Small numbers of cards (0/1/2) are normally found in the suits with more than eight cards you are looking in your hand and dummy.

• High numbers of cards (6+) are generally located in the suits with less than five cards you are looking in the two seen hands.• Intermediate number of cards (3/4/5) are usually found in suits with 5/6/7/8 cards seen between your hand and dummy.

• The higher the level in a contract declared with less than normal average values, the more unbalanced distribution you will find.

Let´s begin the examples with two boards played in the final of the Vanderbilt Cup 2017. The first is a case which normally is found in the 75% of hands:

West
AK96
A76542
75
8
North
J754
8
A10
KQJ743
W
N
E
S
1
2
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

You led the A in this board and partner gives a distributional signal showing an odd pattern in his hand, what do you do next?

In both tables, the contract of 3NT was made, but in one of them with the auction showed in the diagram West brilliantly led the A, and apparently his partner gave him a positive attitude signal with the 2 as he continued with small spade to declarer’s Q, who, as quickly as you can imagine claimed his nine tricks after establishing the club suit. The full deal was:

West
AK96
A76542
75
8
North
J754
8
A10
KQJ743
East
1032
103
J9642
A62
South
Q8
KQJ9
KQ83
1095
D

A distributional defender will make a short stop before playing his second card, to obtain the approximate DS13 of declarer´s hand, which, according to the conventional signal of an ODD PT given by his partner, will be like his own DS26, E-O-E-O (sums: E:8-O:7-E:4-O:7), transformed to numbers in the form of 2-3-4-3, with only one of those numbers being incorrect.

With this information in mind and knowing partner do not have more than 4 or 5 HCP, West can bet with a 3/1 chance for being right that spades is one of the three suits with and odd count in partners´ hand and, no matter who has the Q, leading the K and small immediately will take three tricks in the suit, defeating the contract if partner has the A.

In a second example, we find a DS26 formed by a single initial in the four suits, O-O-O-O or E-E-E-E, which is a case that happens in a 25% of hands, and where imagining declarer´s distribution is easier as his pattern will be known at first trick:

North
9876
J8
J
A97642
East
A53
97653
K643
3
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

In this board, with hands rotated for better appreciation, and the bidding modified from the system used at the table for a clear SAYC understanding, West leads the 10 showing an even pattern in his cards. How should East proceed?

At the table East won with the A, returned the 3 and this pushy contract was made, but the situation is very interesting from the distributional point of view because it coincides with a theme that I showed in an article published in BW many months ago, called "Attitude leads should be banned?". The full deal was:

West
J104
AQ102
Q952
J5
North
9876
J8
J
A97642
East
A53
97653
K643
3
South
KQ2
K4
A1087
KQ108
D

If East is playing this hand with pattern signals, and his partner´s lead shows three suits with EVEN number of cards, East should analyze the position very deeply before playing his card, first from the pattern´s point of view and second with high level of bridge logic.

The pattern analysis is quick and conclusive, East´ DS26 says O-O-O-O and as result of the lead information, declarer´s distribution will have for sure the reverse, an EVEN PT (!!), in the relative shape of 2-2-4-4 as a four cards major was denied in the bidding. The bridge logic analysis is not so easy: West should have a minimum of 10 HCP and the 10 led may be from an interior sequence (KJ104), or anything else with three cards, looking for partners long suit or as a passive lead to protect his side values. Joining together both conclusions, East may suppose partner has four cards in both majors, with the difference that if he returns spades, in the best of cases there are only three defensive tricks as the 9 will win the fourth round in the suit, while shifting to hearts is open to running the suit as dummy also has two cards, or in the worst of cases to establish four tricks if declarer has the Ax or KQ. A resounding success for pattern’s defense when East shifts to hearts with the 2, showing at the same time his ODD pattern, and running five winners in the suit, and a clear demonstration of the ease in counting a hidden hand that is achieved when the DS26 corresponds to a single symbol.

The example is also very instructive in showing one special convention using pattern signals in defense: if the lead is done in the 4th suit (in the example spades, as West´ shape is 3-4-4-2), partner will get full disclosure of declarer´s hand at the very first trick, as the relative DS13 of declarer hand (2-2-4-4) will be immediately corrected to 3-2-4-4.

To finish this article, and, just as a corollary in patterns defense when there is a discard decision you have to guess without a clear picture of declarer’s hand, let’s take a look at one very interesting board played in the semifinals of the same Vanderbilt Cup 2017 (hands rotated):

West
K1086
10875
AJ1075
North
Q975
K643
63
Q42
W
N
E
S
1
X
3
P
4
P
P
P

You lead the 7, declarer winning partner’s J with the A before playing four rounds of trumps. Your partner follows up the line 5-8-9-10 showing something in spades, and you discard 5-7 and 8. Which card do you play in the 4th trump?

At the table West discarded the 5 hoping for QJx in partner’s hand, no doubt a master plan from declarer letting you in the dark about his distribution and forcing four discards without a clue, and the contract was made as the cards laid:

West
K1086
10875
AJ1075
North
Q975
K643
63
Q42
East
AJ4
10985
J4
K983
South
32
AQJ72
AKQ92
6
D

Playing the defense by the patterns, after North places the ♦J, a forced card, his main duty will be to show his distribution, so he must follow in the first two rounds of trumps ♥8-5 to mark an EVEN pattern, and in the third, the position of his 4th suit playing the ♥10 (spades).

West is looking a DS26 made up by only one initial, E-E-E-E (sums: 8-4-6-8), and can relax as he knows at third trick that DECLARER HAS AN ODD PT with two possibilities ♠(2 or 1)-♥5-♦5-♣(1 or 2) or ♠(3 or 1)-♥5-♦4-♣(1 or 3), in view of a fourth level contract with limited values. Actually, at fourth trick and before making the crucial discard, he knows declarer’s hand in full, 2-5-5-1, when partner places the ♥10 on table, showing his distribution as O♠-E♥-E♦-E♣, but even if West could not obtain a full count with such card from partner, he knows he can´t discard a diamond. Gob done.