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24 English Bridge August 2014 www.ebu.co.uk

by Paul Bowyer

Basic Cardplay

Cover an Honour with an Honour Part I

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YOU often hear bridge players quote

adages and phrases such as 'Second player

plays low, third player plays high' and

'Always cover an honour with an honour'.

It is the latter I want to examine (espe cially

the use of that pernicious word

'always').

Let's start at the very beginning (a very

good place to start . . . cue for a song?)

When I discussed the finesse I made

allusion to this layout of cards:

1. ´ A 7 5

´ Q 4 2

If the ´A-Q were in the same hand then

that would be a classic 'tenace' holding.

When the honours are divided between

the two hands we refer to the position as

being a 'split tenace'.

Anyway, what is the best way to play this

combination if North-South require two

tricks in the suit? The answer is to lead a

low card from the North hand towards the

queen of spades, hoping that the king of

spades is with East and the layout is

something like this:

2. ´ A 7 5

´ J 9 6 ´ K 10 8 3

´ Q 4 2

If East plays his spade king 'on thin air' then

the spade queen is established as a second

trick to go with the ace of spades. If East

plays low, then the queen of spades scores a

trick immediately. There is nothing EastWest

can do if the cards do lie in this way;

North-South can always make two tricks

in the suit. Many inex perienced players,

N

W E

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N

W E

S

though, will lead the queen of spades from

the South hand hoping that West has the

spade king and will play low. They think

that they are taking a finesse. If the layout

is like this, however:

3. ´ A 7 5

´ K 9 6 ´ J 10 8 3

´ Q 4 2

then West has a defence to this play. On

the lead of the spade queen from South

West should put his king of spades on it

'covering an honour with an honour'.

Although the king is crushed by the ace of

spades, the upshot is that two of the

North-South spade honours are played for

one of East-West's. Now the position is:

4. ´ 7 5

´ 9 6 ´ J 10 8

´ 4 2

and East-West have all the boss spades. If

the cards do lie as in Example 3 then

North-South can only ever make one trick

if they lead the suit. Note (in passing) that

if West leads the suit, then North can play

small and the lead will run to the queen of

spades; here North-South will, in fact,

make two tricks.

Now, the 'two-for-one' principle is very

important at bridge and it says that it is

often useful to play your honour cards on

the opponents' honour cards if it takes out

two honours for one. 'Often' is not the

same as 'always', however, and there are

many examples where this is the wrong

play. Be warned! This area of the game can

be a minefield.

Have a look at the following (very

common) suit distribution:

5. ´ A Q 6 5 2

´ K 10 8 ´ 9 4

´ J 7 3

How many tricks can South make in the

suit, given best defence by East-West?

First of all, let's look at some basic but

all too common errors.

Sometimes declarer leads a low card

towards the ´A-Q on the table and West

throws his king of spades on it with the

gratuitous comment 'Oh well, my king is

dead anyway, so it doesn't matter what I

do'. That is terrible play on West's part. It is

rarely right to play your high cards on the

opponents' small cards. If West does

sacrifice his king in this fashion, South will

make all of his spades (in other words, five

tricks in total).

At the other end of the scale some

Souths choose to lead the jack of spades.

West, mesmerised by the sight of the

´A-Q on his left wrongly follows with the

eight of spades so the spade jack is allowed

to win the trick. A further spade lead is

made to the queen and declarer makes all

five spades.

What should West do? The answer,

pleasingly enough, is to play low cards on

low cards, and honours on honours. If he

does that, then East-West are assured of a

trick in the suit at some stage. This is such

an important card combination that it is

worth playing it through to check the

accuracy of that statement.

Note also that this card combination is

another split tenace. If West were to lead

this suit, then South could run the lead to

the jack of spades and then lead a spade to

the queen, picking up all five tricks. This is

an important point. There are very many

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Index

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