"IF YOU AREN’T SURE HOW TO CONTINUE AFTER YOU WIN A TRICK, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER DUCKING IT"

by Charles Goren (U.S.A)

Charles Goren’s Bols Tip was introduced in the IBPA Bulletin with a certain degree of awe: ‘Charles Goren, one of a handful of IBPA Honour members, was invited to join the Bols competition honoris causa (as an honour) as a token of his fellow-members’ esteem for his work in popularising bridge and in recognition of his pre-eminence in teaching bridge via the written word’.

The tribute was well deserved. A lawyer by profession, Goren began to play tournament bridge in 1931. At the end of the war, and just after, in the days when competition was not so fierce as it is now, he accumulated a vast number of master points. He promptly seized the opportunity to occupy the vacuum that has been created by Cuthbertson loss of drive. His books were always clear and well written, but oddly enough he contributed very little to theory. The early Goren was most indistinguishable in effect from Cuthbertson, retaining all the bad features such as Forcing Two opening with a 2NT response. His adoption of the distribution point count, however, was move of far-reaching importance, for it enabled quite untalented players to attain a degree of competence. Also, over the years Goren accepted with much better grace than Cuthbertson the good ideas of other players.

Just as there was a pretence among the knowing ones that Josephine was a better player than Ely, so it was often said by rivals that Goren owed most of his tournament success to his partner, Helen Sobel. Helen was undoubtedly a great player, but Goren’s play in British tournaments and in the 1956 championships in Paris were enough to establish that he was a top class performer by any standards.

At that time Goren, though humorous, friendly and unassuming, showed signs of nervous strain that is often the precursor of failing health. He died in 1991 at the age of 90 remaining one of the world's foremost authorities on ther game for most of this century.

Charles Goren called his bridge tip "Try the Dusk".

"If you aren’t sure how to continue after you win a trick, you should consider ducking it"

But there are many cases when you will not have the time for consideration after the opportunity arises – the duck will be effective only if you execute it smoothly, leaving declarer in doubt where the high card is.

Examples occur when you, as a defender, see only these cards:

(1)

  dummy  
  K Q 10 you
    A x x

(2)

  dummy  
you K Q 10  
A x x    

‘Declarer plays low towards dummy and when he plays the queen it hold the trick. Who has the ace?

‘Returning to his hand he leads the sit again. West once more playing low. Which of dummy’s cards should declarer play?

‘Obviously, unless the ace is the setting trick and you are in danger of losing it, must be right for both defenders to duck the first time and for West to play low the second time as well. The alternatives – for East to take the ace first time or for West either to take the ace the second time or to go into a brown study – leave the declarer no problem.

‘The next and only slightly more difficult stage of the same situation is this one:

  dummy
you X x x  
A x x    

‘Declarer, South, leads low from dummy and plays the king. If he makes this play early, it will be a mistake to take the ace unless you have reason to believe the king is alone. Declarer is unlikely to have chosen the lead up to an unsupported king at such an early stage of the play; he probably has KQ10 or KQX. Suppose declarer has KQ10; if you take the first trick with the ace, he will later finesse the 10, with no need to guess who holds the ace.

‘Even if declarer holds KQX, it will still pay you to duck whenever dummy is at all short of entries. If you win the first trick, declarer will use dummy’s entry to find some other play that may gain a trick. If you withhold the ace, he may use that entry in order to repeat his "successful" first play.

‘There are also many less obvious opportunities for ducking plays. Among them is the situation where you can save your partner from a squeeze if you refuse to win a trick. In most squeezes declarer must be able to win within one trick of the required number. To reach this position, he may endeavour to lose a trick while retaining control – a process known as "rectifying the count". Here is a unique but by no means difficult – to – fathom opportunity for East to baulk declarer’s plan.

South dealer

Neither side vulnerable

    Q 6 5    
    10 9 4    
    A K 10 9    
    J 10 9    
J1092

N

74
QJ6 W

E

7532
32   764
432

S

A876
    A K 8 3    
    A K 8    
    Q J 8    
    K Q 5    

‘South bids 2NT, North raises to 4NT and South goes on to 6NT, against which West opens with the Jack of spades. Declarer wins in his hand with the ace – which should not fool you. He leads the king of clubs and sitting East you duck. Next he leads 5. It is apparent (from partner’s play of the 2 and 3) that South began with only 3 clubs and very possibly it would suit him to lose this trick and so rectify the count for a squeeze. So you duck the trick once again! Now he cannot surrender a club trick without letting you cash another. He is forced to abandon clubs and look for his twelfth trick in a spade or via a squeeze. But when he runs off all four diamond tricks, discarding a club from his hand, West is able to discard a club. You will never make your ace of clubs, but partner will make a trick in hearts and a trick in spades.

Goren went on to explain how West could be squeezed in the major suits if East captured either the first or second round of clubs.

The advice about ducking with Axx over (or under) KQ10 is fairly basic and may like to look at some more subtle examples of this type of play. Take this very common situation:

  K 7 5  
J95   A84
   Q1062  

Playing in a no-trump contract, South leads low to dummy’s king. Defenders normally take the trick, but note that as a practical matter it is not essential to do so. If East ducks, South will finesse the 10 on the way back and still lose two tricks. On many occasions it will suit the defence better for West to take the first trick. When this is the case, East must not be nervous of allowing the king to hold.

There is another way in which this play may gain. There may be deceptive value in withholding the ace: declarer may mentally place West with this card and form a wrong picture of the lie of the honours in another suit.

Suppose that East has held AJXinstead of AXX: once again, to win with the ace does not gain, because South will be finessing the 10 on the next round. Then can it gain not to play the ace from AJX ? Quite possibly, when the cards lie like this:

  Q 8 3  
106   AJ5
   K9742  

This is the trump suit and South leads low to the queen. If there is a possibility that declarer holds a six card suit, East must win, but if South has only five in the suit the result will be the same whether East ducks or wins. If the queen is allowed to hold, South will play back the 3 and will himself duck when East plays the jack, as he will hope to bring down West’s doubleton ace. It may be to the advantage of the defence for East to gain two entries, and furthermore, after the jack has held, South will place West with the ace.

Generally speaking, too, a defender with AJ10x in the trump suit should duck the first round. The play is especially successful when declarer plays at low level with a fragile trump suit:

  Q 8 6  
AJ103   94
   K752  

Declarer would normally prefer to broach this suit by leading low from hand, but the entry situation may cause him to make the first lead from dummy. Now observe the effect if the king is allowed to hold. South returns the 2, West plays the jack (best) and dummy will duck, allowing West to pull all the trumps.

The idea of a duck to defeat a squeeze is of course familiar to practitioners of the art. The ingenious authors of Right Through The Pack (published by Allen & Unwin) gave an example that has always stayed in my mind:

    K Q 7 2    
    A Q 8 3    
    K    
    Q 5 3 2    
J986

N

543
KJ109 W

E

65
3   AQJ8762
J987

S

  10
    A 10    
    7 4 2    
    10 9 5 4    
    A K 6 4    

In the face of competition from East, South plays in 4NT and West leads the 3. To defeat the contract, East must allow dummy’s king to hold! To take the ace and switch is not good enough, because declarer will soon lead back the 10 of diamonds, to West’s great embarrassment.