Source: IBPA Handbook


The Bols Bridge Tips Competition 1987 has been won by Steen Møller (DEN) with his article “Discovering Distribution”.
K J 9 5 2
A Q 7
When you consider the play of this suit in a notrump contract, you will probably think, that it is not beyond your capacity to cash the ace followed by the queen and the seven. You are, however, quite wrong. I did not deal you this suit to see you solve an unblocking problem, and you have just missed an excellent opportunity to test the honesty of your opponents and their methods. If you simply cash the ace, nobody cares to reveal the distribution, but try the effect of leading the queen first! Now each of the defenders might think, that his partner holds the ace and will normally try hard to give count, so that partner can grab the ace at the right moment. If one or both defenders manage to flashcard in this situation — and you will find out, when you run the suit — you should not trust any of their discards for the rest of the session. I find it a considerable advantage to get a suit like this at the beginning of a team event, so that I know where I am for the rest of the match.
A Q 10 2
K J 6
This suit offers a similar opportunity. Start with the jack from your hand and let it run. You should not pay any attention to the discards from East, but West will normally give an honest count signal. He has to consider the possibility, that his partner holds the king and will duck the jack. Therefore he feels obliged to help East and tell him when to take the king. As you have seen by the two examples, the effect you want to obtain occurs by leading from your hand an honour card, that is touching to one or more honour cards in dummy, and that has the air of being an unblocking play.
J 9 5 2
K Q 10
With this combination you should lead the queen to test the count signals from your opponents! For various reasons this lead is also more likely to locate the position of the ace, than the lead of the king. West, if holding the ace, will quite often cover the queen to protect partners holding in the suit (remember that he can not see the ten). East, if he holds the ace, may well take it to preserve a possible tempo or for fear of later crashing partners king. The lead of the king does not have this effect, as it normally promises the queen. Having tested your opponents with one or two of the above mentioned suit combinations and found out, that they are quite honest, you may get a chance to use your knowledge later in the match:
K 10 7 2
A Q 4
Now you quite routinely play the queen to secure, that you get the count! West follows with the six and plays the nine under the ace. When you then play the four, he produces the three. This is rather confusing. What is going on, when your opponents are playing normal signals? Well, it is in fact quite simple. West has started a count signal from J 9 6 3 with the intention of playing the three at round two, when he expects you to play a low card towards dummy. When, however, you much to his surprise show up with the ace after the queen, he knows that he has given you the key. In an attempt to recover, West is now trying to disguise his lGBRth and to show an odd number, but the play of the three at the third round reveals everything, and a finesse with the ten is almost sure to win — at least according to my experience. If your opponents play upside down signals, you will see the same thing happen, when West holds 9 6 3. He starts with the six to show an odd number, then tries to fool you by throwing the nine (looking like a man with an even number), but the final play of the three discloses the distribution, and it is almost a sure thing to go up with the king and drop the jack from East’s hand. Now that you know, how a nasty declarer tries to discover the distribution of your suits, you would probably want to know how to defend against this. I am sorry, but I can not help you. There is hardly any defence except by illegal methods, and they are not recommendable, if you want to continue playing bridge. Inspiration may help you, but if you are too inspired and partner seems to find out most of the time, you are close to illegal methods. Holding the hand with 9 6 3 (using normal signals) you could of course play the six followed by the nine, being semi honest to your partner, and then play the three, which would then fool me, if I was the nasty declarer. If from J 9 6 3 you have started with the six to show an even number, my advice to you is to follow normally with the three and then the nine. Most declarers are very suspicious to honesty like that, especially if they have not had the opportunity of testing you with another combination earlier in the match.