In a hand from a past World Bridge Championship, we look at a textbook defensive situation with which few club players are familiar.

Dealer West, Both Vul

Q 9 7 5 3
K 3 2
Q 7 4 3
Q 8 7
K 8
A K J 7 4 2
J 10 4 2
10 5 4
A 10 9 6
8 5
8 6
A J 9 6
J 5 2
Q 10 6 3
West North East South
2 Pass 2 Pass
2NT Pass 3 Pass
3 Pass 3NT Pass
Pass Pass

In this hand from a Senior Teams World Championship, North led the 5 (fourth highest) to the 2, 8 and A. Declarer cashed the A then crossed to dummy via the A in order to lead a second round of clubs to finesse to the J. This won but North showed out. Declarer persisted with clubs but had to lose the fourth round to South.

South now switched to hearts; but which heart should South lead? Usually it is right to lead low (such as the fourth highest) when your honours are broken rather than sequential, but on the actual layout, declarer could then duck the trick around to North’s K, and a heart back would then set up declarer’s Q as a winner.

The winning defence is for South instead to switch to the J, thereby trapping West’s Q under the K, after which a heart back sees South capture dummy’s 10 and cash the rest of the suit. Declarer does no better to refuse to cover the J with the Q.

The situation to look for as a defender is when you are leading towards dummy and you have dummy’s card (in this case the 10, but it will sometimes be a jack or a nine) surrounded (in this case by your J-9 of hearts) AND you have a higher honour as well (in this case the A). In such cases, imagine you have dummy’s card in your hand, and then lead your “top of a sequence”.

Here, you imagine you have dummy’s 10, giving you A-J-10-9-6, so you lead the J, and declarer is headed for defeat. This type of play is known as a “surround lead”. Here is a variation:

K 6 3
J 5 4 A 9 2
Q 10 8 7

South should lead the 10, treating dummy’s 9 as being part of an imaginary interior sequence (Q-10-9-etc). This surround lead holds declarer to one trick in the suit. Defenders who are not familiar with this situation generally lead low (the 7) and when declarer plays low, West’s king loses to the ace, and then the defenders later lose a second trick to declarer’s jack.