Sometimes good defense requires each partner to cooperate. Sometimes just one player has to make a good play. This time, I had to step up, but my partner was able to help.

Playing in a regional Swiss against decent opponents, I sit East with about an ace more than my normal holding.

S: 97
H: 8
C: KQ10543
S: J1042
H: 107653
D: 54
C: A2
Partner leads the S:A. I discourage, and declarer drops the queen, so partner shifts to the C:6. I win the C:A as declarer drops the C:J.

The main difference between book problems and real play is that in a book, one knows when to stop and think to solve a problem. Rarely in real play does someone ring a bell to tell you that it's time to think things though, but this hand does. It's obvious that the only way to beat 5H: is for us to get a trump trick. Declarer is going to draw trumps and find out that he needs to perform a trump coup. To do that, he'll need to enter dummy, ruff something, then get back to dummy to run winners through me. Can I stop him? It appears from partner's C:6 that declarer's shape is exactly 2632 or less likely 2731 or 2722. If I continue with a spade, declarer will draw a couple rounds of trump, go to dummy with a club (or a diamond if he is 2731), ruff a club, cross back with a diamond, and lead clubs, pickling my trump trick.

I won't let that happen. I play a diamond at trick three. Declarer wins, cashes two high hearts, and frowns at partner's club discard on the second trump. He thinks for a while and plays a club to dummy. Partner follows to this trick, so I know declarer is exactly 2632, just as I surmised. Declarer leads a high club from dummy. I know he is going to ruff this anyway, so I throw my last diamond. He does ruff, and when he tries to cross back to dummy with a diamond, I ruff in for the setting trick.

Partner's pitching his third club was a thoughtful play. It enabled me to be 100% sure of the count. Such plays make defense a lot easier.

When we get back to compare scores, my teammate apologizes for "botching the trump coup." I said, "there was no trump coup at our table. We prevented it." Fortunately, they had stopped in four.

Copyright © 2006 Jeff Goldsmith