Bridge Lecture for ACBL Hearts Ch7 (April 24, 2017)

Our chapter for today — ACBL’s Heart Series, 2nd Ed., Ch. 7 — explains how to disrupt the Declarer’s plan. Defenders can strand Declarer’s tricks in Dummy. Defenders can match Declarer in suit length so that Declarer never establishes Low Card Tricks. Defenders can disrupt by delaying when Defenders win finesses, or by pulling trumps when Declarer has plans to ruff. The chapter also reviews some aspects of bidding and play.  You may download this lesson in one of the two following formats:

  1. Paragraph: ACBL Hearts Ch7 Para.doc
  2. Outline: ACBL Hearts Ch7 Note.doc
Suit Establishment

Concept: A good Declarer will promote their High Card Tricks (HCT) and establish their Low Card Tricks (LCT). HCT are Declarer’s honors that win the first rounds. LCT are Declarer’s spot cards that win the last rounds. Defenders should obstruct Declarer’s efforts to win these tricks. For example, Defenders should remove any entries to Dummy’s LCT. On the lead of a new suit by Declarer, Defenders should signal their count. An even count is Hi-Lo, an odd count is Lo-Hi.

Holdup w/ a Same-Suit Entry: When Declarer has a 5c+ suit in Dummy, Declarer has an excellent chance of making their contract. Defenders cannot stop Declarer from developing Dummy’s long suit, but Defenders can remove the entries to these winners. The Defender with a ranking card holds up their play until the round that Declarer becomes void. If Dummy were weak and long, this would be the round that Declarer crosses over to Dummy by playing a low card from hand. Declarer is now void. Defenders should win the cross-over trick because Declarer has no further cards in the suit to reach the established winners in Dummy.

Holdup w/ a Side-Suit Entry:  A strong Declarer may have no cards lower than those in Dummy’s 5c+ suit. Declarer cannot reach the suit’s LCT with a same-suit crossing play. If Declarer has just one side-suit entry to Dummy, Defenders should wait for Declarer to cash this side entry. Declarer will use the side-suit entry to cross, then play the LCT in the established suit. Defenders should take the first trick played in the established suit, as Declarer is void and Dummy has no other entries. Declarer will ruff Defenders’ high card. Due to the ruff, Defenders will not get the trick they deserve with their ranking card. Defenders should hold up their ranking card only when Dummy has a single side-suit entry. Defenders should not jeopardize their ranking card when Dummy has multiple side-suit entries.

Holdup with Both Entries: Declarer may have a low card to reach Dummy’s suit and an outside entry too. In such a case, Defenders will need two ranking cards if Defenders are to be disruptive. Defenders should win the trick on which Declarer becomes void, just as they would with “Holdup w/ a Same-Suit Entry.” Declarer will then cross over to Dummy in a side suit. As soon as Declarer plays a card in Dummy’s established suit, Defenders should win the trick, just as they would with “Holdup w/ a Side-Suit Entry.”

Defenders Remove Entries: If Dummy has a 5c+ nonrunnable suit and a side-suit entry, Defenders should lead high in the side suit with the intention of driving out Dummy’s entry.

Declarer Creates Entries: If Declarer has an honor in Dummy, Declarer can convert the honor into an entry by driving out all higher honors. Defenders should not cooperate. LHO should give count when Declarer leads the suit. RHO should reserve one ranking honor to capture the earlier of Dummy’s last honor or Declarer’s last card.

Low Card Tricks (LCT)

Concept: Declarer will attempt to win LCT in any suit with a 4-3 or better distribution. Declarer hopes these suits will break evenly for Defenders, such as 3-3. By the 10th to 12th rounds, Declarer may have two remaining suits that started with 4c+. Declarer will squeeze Defenders in these two suits. Whichever suit Defenders discard, Declarer will claim a final LCT in that unguarded suit. Defenders only solution is for each Defender to save a different suit, and to do so because their partner gave them an early count signal. The long partner in each suit has the responsibility to guard that suit.

Stoppers & Discards: Defenders give each other count signals when Declarer leads a new suit. The Defender who is long in the suit must stay even with Declarer, or Declarer will win undeserved LCT. A wise Declarer can make inferences about the strength of a Defender’s holdings from the discards. For example, a Defender is not likely to be guarding a missing honor if that Defender is discarding in the suit. Even though Declarer might guess which Defender is defending which suit, each Defender must retain stoppers in their guarded suit.

Length of Declarer’s Suit: Defenders cannot see Declarer’s hand. Nevertheless, Defenders know that a Declarer who (1) bid NT has 2c+, (2) raised a major has 3c+, (3) raised a minor has 4c+, (4) bid a new suit has 4c+, (5) opened a major has 5c+, or (6) jump overcalled has 6c+. A Defender also knows the count given by partner. If Declarer has not bid a suit, then by subtracting from 13 the sum of one’s own holding, partner’s count, and Dummy’s count, a Defender might deduce Declarer’s holding.


Concept: If Defenders sitting in 2nd and 4th seats duck a trick, the Defenders may confuse the Declarer. A confused Declarer may misplay.

Tenace: If Dummy or Declarer has a suit tenace, a Defender may have the gap card. When Declarer leads towards the tenace, the 2nd hand Defender should play low, giving 4th hand an opportunity to win if Declarer plays low too.

Touching Honors: If either Dummy or Declarer has touching non-ranking honors, their suit will require two finesses to win both honors. The 4th hand Defender should play low, forcing Declarer to use an entry card for the second finesse. This technique is especially useful if Declarer has two possible finesses, and 4th hand can see that the other finesse would work if Declarer only had an entry. By encouraging Declarer to use an entry for a second attempt at what seems to be a successful finesse, Declarer won’t have the entry to use for the winning finesse.

Broken Sequence: If either Dummy or Declarer has a broken non-ranking honor sequence, the suit will require two finesses to win both honors. The 4th hand Defender should play low, forcing Declarer to use an entry card for the 2nd finesse, and then guessing on the 2nd finesse whether to play high or low.

Covering: Generally, a Defender covers Dummy’s last honor. Defender should cover earlier if this will promote one of Defenders’ own honors, confuse Declarer on how to play later finesses, or block Dummy.


Concept: If Dummy has shortage and trumps, Declarer’s plan will include voiding Dummy in the short suit. Declarer will then ruff their hand’s losers in the short suit.

Creating Dummy’s Void: Defenders should not continue a winning suit if this will create a void in Dummy. A void will help Declarer. Instead, Defenders should attack Dummy’s trumps. Without trumps, Dummy will not provide any ruffing tricks to Declarer.

Creating Partner’s Void: Declarer deserves all their trump tricks in hand. Defenders are not hurt by Declarer ruffing anything in hand. Consequently, when Dummy is long, a Defender on lead should continue a suit knowing that partner and Declarer are void. Declarer will get a ruff, but partner will get a sluff. Partner will sluff whichever suit Dummy is short. When Declarer creates a ruff in Dummy’s short suit, the short Defender will be able to overruff.

Uppercut: This is Charles Goren’s term, from New Bridge Complete. Both Defenders must have a high unguarded honor. Declarer and one Defender must have an identical void. When the long Defender plays a winner in the void suit, the void Defender ruffs high with their unguarded honor trump. Declarer can overruff, but this shortens Declarer’s high trumps so that the lead Defender’s once unguarded trump is promoted to a ranking trump. This is a hurtful play, like a prize fighter’s knockout punch, because with any other lead the Declarer was in position to win the lead, draw trumps, and claim their contract.

Review of Bidding

Slam Theory: In NT, a small slam requires 33+ PVP1 while a grand slam requires 37 PVP. These values insure that no two aces are outstanding for a small slam and no single ace is outstanding for a large slam. Declarer can take 12 – 13 tricks in their GF suit. There is no advantage for Declarer to prefer a major suit, as all suits receive the same slam bonus (500 to 1,500 points). With a strong hand, Declarer generally bids slam in their longest suit, regardless of whether this suit is a minor or major. However, if Declarer at duplicate has all four suits stopped, then a NT slam will produce a slightly higher score than will a suit slam.

Slam Bids: Any bid beyond game is a slam invitation. For instance, if a partnership has a part score of 60 and one partner raises without interference to 3♥, that is an invitation to slam. A bid of 3♥ is worth 90 points, far more than the 40 points the partnership needs for their game.

4NT Quantitative: A bid of 4NT prior to suit confirmation is quantitative, showing 5 trumps and asking partner to pick game or slam. With 6 trumps, partner would bid a Texas Transfer. Confirmation means that both partners have bid the suit voluntarily. For example, a JTB is not confirmation until the transferee has raised the suit, like 1NT – 2♥ – 2 – 2NT – 3. A quantitative invitation would be 1NT – 2♥ – 2 – 4NT.

Review of Declarer Play: (This review is NOT Defense! It is about the Declarer.)

Holdup: Declarer can convert one Defender into a less dangerous opponent by holding up on a dangerous lead. If Declarer waits to win the suit until the RHO is void, then the RHO can never return the suit to LHO. Declarer can determine the Opponents’ holdings by their bidding, play, and signals. That is, if LHO bid the lead suit, then LHO is dangerous, but if LHO is leading to RHO’s bid suit, then RHO is dangerous. A Defender who overtakes their partner’s lead is likely very long or very short. On many leads, Defenders will signal their count, and Declarer is free to read these count signals.

Dangerous Suit: If either Declarer or Dummy holds a single honor or a non-touching honor in a suit, then the player to their right is dangerous. This is because the right opponent can lead through Declarer’s or Dummy’s strength, trapping the honor.

Dangerous Opponent: If a dangerous opponent has an established suit ready to run, then Declarer should take all finesses in such a direction that the dangerous opponent is always 2nd hand, incapable of winning the finesse.

Test of Comprehension
  1. Defensive Holdup: Go to Exercise One. (p. 302). Try 1, 2.
  2. Attacking Entries: Go to Exercise Two. (p. 304). Try 1, 2.
  3. Watching Discards: Go to Exercise Three. (p. 305). Try 1.
  4. Counting Cards: Go to Exercise Four. (p. 306). Try 4.
  5. Defeating Finesses: Go to Exercise Five. (p. 307). Try 2 (an error).
  6. Defending Against Trumps: Go to Exercise Six. (p. 308). Try 1.
  7. Review of Bidding (Slams): Go to Exercise Seven. (p. 310). Try 8, 9.
  8. Review of Play (Dangerous Leads): Go to Exercise Eight. (p. 311). Try 1.

_ _ _ _ _ _

1PVP: Partnership Valuation Points = HCP + Length Points (for Declarer) + Dummy Points (for Responder). Declarer’s PVP = their HCP + their Length Points. Responder’s PVP = their HCP + their Dummy Points. All points discussed in this paper are PVP unless they are specially identified as HCP only.

Hands to Play, from Hearts = “ACBL Defense in the 21st Century” (404p)

Note that we have studied NT, major-suit, and minor-suit bidding, so please bid. However, if you reach a different contract than AG, please play her contract and opening lead. Consider playing the hands as “double dummy” so that everyone at the table can see the offense and defense unfold. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for dealt hands.

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
Hearts P. 312 #7-1 N N 3NT 4♠ A
Hearts P. 314 #7-2 E E 6NT T♥ B
Hearts P. 316 #7-3 S S 6♠ J♦ C
Hearts P. 318 #7-4 W W 2♠ K♦ D
  1. Hand 7-1: N=17 PVP[i] . S=11 PVP. North (N) holds 17 HCP + (0LP or 1DP). South (S) holds 9 HCP + (2LP or 2DP). N opens 1NT. S doesn’t mention the long minor, goes to 3NT. E leads 4th best. N has 5 QT and 5 more promotable tricks in . N holds up 2x, then leads towards Q. N has no entries in Dummy. Defense holds up 2x, stranding N out of Dummy. Down 2. (-100 nv)
  2. Hand 7-2: E=16 PVP. W=17 PVP. East (E) holds 16 HCP + (0LP or 0DP). West (W) holds 17 HCP + (0LP or 0DP). E opens 1NT on a 4-3-3-3 flat hand. W bids 4NT Quantitative with a 4-3-3-3 distribution, 4 Quacks, and 3 high intermediates. E accepts at 6NT with a flat hand and no high intermediates! S leads top of a non-honor sequence, aka BOSTON. N plays top of a doubleton, returns the suit. Declarer now has 11 QT. Declarer must squeeze the Defense to establish one of the 7c suits, but no squeeze is likely with this flat distribution. Down 1. (-50 nv)
  3. Hand 7-3: S=14 PVP. N=21 PVP. S holds 13 HCP + (1LP or 1DP). N holds 20 HCP + (1LP or 1DP). S opens 1. N waits with 2♣ for S’ second bid. S doesn’t have a 2nd bid in , no 4c either, so supports partner with 3♣. N cuebids , hoping for the A. S returns to 4♣. N corrects to 4. W leads top of a non-honor sequence, aka BOSTON. Declarer draws trumps, then promotes the Q. Making +1. (450 nv)
  4. Hand 7-4: W=13 PVP. E=8 PVP. W holds 12 HCP + (1LP or 1DP). E holds 7 HCP + (0LP or 1DP). West opens 1. E supports with 2. AP. N leads top of a 2ch sequence. S encourages, but Dummy is short. N switches to trumps. S wins the trump lead and returns a trump. Declarer has 7 QT, must get a ruff. When Declarer plays the 2nd round of , N wins and plays a 3rd trump, denying Declarer a ruff in Dummy. Down 1. (-50 nv)

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of ACBL Hearts Ch7 may be downloaded at

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