Killing Dummy


Author: Michael Berkowitz
Date of publish: 08/08/2019
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

I think all little siblings will empathize with my failures to win at the game "keep away". As a slightly younger, but much smaller sibling, I had little chance when my sister and her friends would "borrow" one of my toys and toss it back and forth to each other. I always told her "one day I'm going to be bigger than you and you'll regret it." Little did I know, that by the time I grew bigger than her, she would already be a freshman at college and I would have no chance for revenge...yet. 

In bridge, playing keep away can be a good defensive strategy. Finding ways to sever declarer's ability to get to the dummy may frequently limit declarer's ability to take tricks. A common example is this simple holdup play.

 

WestNorthEastSouth
      1NT
 All Pass      

DUMMY

♠ 54
♥ 983
♦ KQJ109
♣ 762

 
 

YOUR HAND

♠ 982
♥ AQ42
♦ A76
♣ J84

 

With a hand like this, it's clear that you should not win the first diamond play. You should look at partner's count signal and win the corresponding trick. Sometimes, dummy's suit won't be as solid looking, but it still pays to take away entries to dummy.

 

 

 

 

 

Contract: 3NT (auction: 1NT P 3NT)

Partner leads the ♠J

DUMMY

♠ A5
♥ 983
♦ KQJ87
♣ 974

 
 

Your Hand

♠ KJ109
♥ A6
♦ A32
♣ 10832

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should you win or duck the first trick? If you win, what do you play at trick two?

Here, you can see that declarer's diamonds will be good eventually. You plan on holding up later in diamonds, but as long as the ♠A is in dummy, declarer can get there. In order to take that card from dummy you need to play a spade at trick 2, but which spade?

If you play the ♠J, declarer can put in the Q and play diamonds. Instead, you must play the K at trick two. This type of play actually has a fancy name (Merrimac Coup), but you just need to think of how you can get that ace out of dummy. You shouldn't worry about giving up a spade trick (declarer could always get it herself later), but think that you are cutting off dummy's diamond suit.

One final test for yourself. What is your plan looking at this hand?

WestNorthEastSouth
      1♠
 Pass 1NT  Pass  2♠
 Pass  2NT  Pass  4♠
All Pass      

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partner leads the ♠9. Declarer wins and plays a spade, everyone following. What do you do next?

DUMMY

♠ 54
♥ 974
♦ J63
♣ AKQJ10

 
 

YOU

♠ A
♥ Q10853
♦ KQ10
♣ 7643

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here, you should consider what partner's lead is. It's probably a singleton or doubleton, since if partner has three, declarer would continue on clubs to pitch losers. Do you think it's better if it's one or two? Here, it's probably better for this to be a doubleton. Here's why. If partner only has one, that means declarer started with six spades (or seven) and three clubs. The defense will take the ace of trump plus a ruff, but you might not get any more. Look what happens if partner has two clubs (full deal below). Partner won't ruff this trick, but declarer can't get to dummy's good clubs anymore. If declarer pitches a loser on the third club, partner will ruff (for your second trick) and you will still get two tricks in the red suits. Sometimes you need to make the counter-intuitive play of playing dummy's best suit to sever communications prematurely.

The full deal:

Vul:
Dir:
♠ 54
♥ 974
♦ J63
♣ AKQJ10
 
♠ 7632
♥ KJ6
♦ 9754
♣ 92
  ♠ A
♥ Q10853
♦ KQ10
♣ 7643
  ♠ KQJ1098
♥ A2
♦ A82
♣ 85