Knowing when to hop up and when to duck

There is not a lot happening at the club right now after the Mixed Pairs last week.

Upcoming, we have the Teams Evening on May 20 and we then have the Non-Life Master Pairs on May 11 and 18.

So, straight to the hand which needs a bit of concentration. This hand is mainly about declarer play, but also contains an element of defence.

Dealer South Both Vul


Spades: J108743

Hearts: AJ5

Diamonds: 4

Clubs: KJ6


Spades: 5

Hearts: 1098

Diamonds: J10753

Clubs: 9852


Spades: 62

Hearts: Q743

Diamonds: A962

Clubs: Q104


Spades: AKQ9

Hearts: K62

Diamonds: KQ8

Clubs: A73

Pretty much the whole room was in 4 Spades but three pairs got to the Spade slam with differing results. South usually opened a 20-22 HCP 2NT and North transferred to Spades ... some South super accepted, partner then drove to slam.

At all three slam tables, West led the Heart 10. At table one, declarer tried the Heart Jack but this was covered by the Queen and King.

Declarer now drew two rounds of trumps, ending in dummy and led the singleton Diamond. And when East hopped up with the Ace declarer was home with six Spades and two tricks in the other three suits. Weak defending by East.

At the second table, declarer also tried the Heart Jack and the play went the same way, but when declarer led the Diamond from dummy East, realising that declarer almost certainly had the KQ, ducked.

Now with the Club finesse not working, declarer eventually settled for down one try it.

The play at the third slam table was excellent all around. At trick one declarer did not insert the Heart Jack and won with the King.

He now drew two trumps, ending in dummy to lead the Diamond and again East made the excellent play of ducking and declarer won the Queen. Now declarer showed why the play at trick one was important.

He ruffed a Diamond, came to hand with a trump and played the Diamond King, but instead of ruffing it, threw a Club, forcing East to win in this position:


Spades: 108

Hearts: AJ


Clubs: KJ



Hearts: 98

Diamonds: J10

Clubs: 98



Hearts: Q7

Diamonds: 9

Clubs: Q104


Spades: A

Hearts: 62


Clubs: A73

East is dead. A Heart or Club play gives away the 12th trick and a Diamond allows declarer to ruff in hand and throw away the Heart Jack.

Great play by declarer and a valiant attempt by East.

The duck of the Diamond is a play that most would not make, but time and time again it is the correct play as often hopping up with an Ace gives declarer too many tricks.

When to hop up and when to duck is something you will only get to judge after a lot of play and experience playing this game.

And even then there is rarely any certainty!