Ivaska on Bridge

Declarer’s Losing Option Offered

By Paul Ivaska

Las Vegas, Nevada








             West                                East

             ♠J103                               ♠A4

             954                                763

             K1062                           AJ84

             ♣Q63                              ♣J952








North   East    South  West

                       1♠        Pass

1NT     Pass    3♠        Pass

3NT     Pass    4♠        Pass

Pass     Pass               


Opening Lead: 2


Some holdings and hand patterns have definite personalities.

This one from an IMP match between two excellent teams stars one such holding, and a player who understood its characteristics.

The bidding was good, and consistent with modern practices. South’s hand is strong defensively, therefore a preempt in spades would be a needless risk, especially when owning the highest ranking suit.

South’s 3♠ rebid, a jump in the original suit, was invitational, but not forcing. North then showed a maximum with secondary cards by offering an alternative game contract in notrump.

South naturally insisted on spades.

The Play

Declarer ruffed the third round of diamonds and crossed to dummy by overtaking the ♣K with the ace. He then led the table’s only trump to his ♠K on which West innocently followed with the ♠10.

South knew that his opponent was quite capable of making this play from this actual holding, but eventually made the losing decision of putting down the trump queen at trick six in an abortive effort to smother the ♠J. Down one.

Mandatory False Card

West’s play of the ♠10 is known technically as a mandatary false card, in the sense that it is not optional, or done wantonly or capriciously. It is absolutely required to give an opponent choices between winning and losing lines of play.

For example: had West inattentively played the ♠3 under the king, declarer would have had no alternative to leading a small spade, trying to fell the doubleton ace. Also, the need for West to retain both the jack and ten is only illusory, when declarer is known to hold at least two top honors.



The situation is completely different when a defender is in front of a long suit with that holding (♠J10x). Then, it’s usually right to play small: partly to retain the honors so as not to be finessed against later, partly because it’s not generally necessary to guard against an irrational, or double- dummy, move by declarer holding ♠KQ9xxxx.

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