Defence is the hardest part of the game. You sit silently through the opponent’s auction, pausing only occasionally to drop a green PASS card on the table. Your mind wanders, you start thinking about whether Toilet Duck is harmful to the environment and then proceed to put cards down on the table, following suit when you remember, as declarer racks up 11 tricks in 3NT. Then, partner has to go and spoil it all by asking you why you didn’t return a heart at trick 5? Flummoxed, you shrug and deal the next hand quickly.
This is a problem. What can you do about it?
1) Listen to the bidding carefully. If the person on your right bids two suits - say hearts and clubs - this probably shows at least 5-4 in those two suits. That means this player has another four cards in the other two suits, distributed 2-2, 3-1 or 4-0. Your job is to watch partner’s discards so you get some idea of how those cards lie, and ALSO to tell your partner your distribution so partner can also work out what’s happening.
2) Listen to the bidding carefully. If the person on your right rebids a 1NT at any stage (or 2NT or 3NT) then you and your partner know pretty exactly how many points that person has. As declarer plays high cards, mentally add up how many of these points have been shown or implied.
3) When dummy goes down - stop. Think. Plan. Count dummy’s points. Does the hand match the bidding? Does declarer look smug or scared? Add dummy’s points to your points, add in declarer’s “probable” points, subtract from 40 and the answer is how many points your partner has.
4) When dummy goes down - stop. Think. Plan. What is partner’s lead? Singleton? Doubleton? Top of a sequence? 4th best from an honour? Middle of 3 small? What is partner trying to do? How can you help? Do you need to find a new partner rapidly?
OK, so that’s trick 1. Next week all the other 12 tricks! Then we can start to look at Count, Attitude, Discards and Suit Preference Signals. I promise you, youll never have time to think about Toilet Duck again …