Please note: Frank Stewart’s bridge column will no longer appear online after June 1, 2011. It will continue to run in the Washington Post print edition.

It’s easier to defend well when you know what declarer has. Defenders must try to construct his hand based on the bidding and early play.

Today’s West led the ten of diamonds against 3NT, and East captured dummy’s king and returned a diamond. South next led a heart to his jack, and West won and led a third diamond. Declarer won and cashed five clubs and three hearts for an overtrick.


Before East returns his partner’s lead at the second trick, he must try to visualize declarer’s hand. South’s jump to 2NT suggests extra strength (17 or so points), but then South would have opened 1NT with a balanced hand. His distribution will be semibalanced.

East can’t beat 3NT with diamond tricks; West can’t have two entries. But if South’s pattern is, say, 2-4-2-5, East may profit from a spade shift.

East should lead the ace of spades, then a low spade. South has only eight tricks and must force out the ace of hearts, and then West leads a third spade for down one.


You hold: S K Q H K Q J 4 D 6 3 C A Q 10 8 4. Your partner opens one spade, you respond two clubs, he bids two diamonds and you try two hearts. Partner next bids 2NT. What do you say?

ANSWER: You may have a slam if your partner has a few extra high cards. Bid 4NT. Since you have no agreed trump suit, this bid is not ace-asking but is a “quantitative” raise, inviting a notrump slam. If partner has a hand such as A J 10 5 2, 7 5, A K 7 2, K 5, he’ll go on to 6NT.

South dealer

N-S vulnerable


S 10 8 6 4

H 6 5 2

D K Q J 2



S 7 5 3

H A 9 7

D 10 9 8 7 4

C 9 2


S A J 9 2

H 10 8 3

D A 5

C 7 6 5 3



H K Q J 4

D 6 3

C A Q 10 8 4

South West North East

1 C Pass 1 D Pass

1 H Pass 1 S Pass

2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead -- D 10

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