Active and passive in defence

Bridge teachers often like to “sex up” their lessons with exotic aspects of play. Victorian instructor Jeff Fust’s past lessons in Sydney focussed more on the staples of defence.

Go passive when the opponents have no long suit or other imminent source of tricks. What do you lead as North?

Dealer West

          NORTH 
          S 8742
          H KJ73
          D 64
          C K85
WEST                EAST
S AQJ               S KT6
H AQ2               H 984
D KT87              D QJ52
C AJ3               C T64
          SOUTH 
          S 953
          H T65
          D A93
          C Q972

WEST   NORTH   EAST   SOUTH
2NT    Pass    3NT    All pass

Fust pointed out that the active lead of a heart is particularly risky here, as declarer is marked with most of the missing points. A heart lead would run around to the A-Q, presenting declarer with an extra trick.

A spade or diamond lead from North is passive, unlikely to set the world aflame but unlikely to do damage either. Let’s say that North does lead a spade. Declarer wins and plays diamonds, driving out South’s ace. What should South not lead back?

The fatal lead from South would be a club, “away from an honour” towards the honour in dummy. If C2 is led, West plays low and North wins the CK, and later declarer can finesse to the CJ for the ninth trick. Passive defence, on the other hand, defeats the contract.

Here is another of Fust’s deals: 

Dealer South

          NORTH 
          S 54
          H QT952
          D A96
          C KJ9
WEST                EAST
S QJT3              S A9876
H 84                H A
D Q542              D J73
C 754               C QT86
          SOUTH 
          S K2
          H KJ763
          D KT8
          C A32

SOUTH  WEST   NORTH   EAST
1H     Pass   3H      Pass
4H    All pass

West leads the SQ; how should East defend?

With no long suit in dummy for discards (trumps does not count), East wants to go passive and not give anything away. The winning defence is for East to take the SA, then cash the HA to avoid being thrown in later. Next, exit with a spade. Declarer wins and draws the last trump.

As the cards lie, the winning play for declarer is to cash the ace and king of clubs then play another club. East wins then must either give a ruff and discard by leading a black suit, or lead diamonds which allows declarer to pick up that suit for no loser.

In practice, however, declarer cashed the CA then finessed to the CJ, losing to East’s CQ. East must then exit passively, with a club, and the contract is one down. 

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