Some myths about defense

Are you from those which are based on too rigid principles in defensive play in tarot? If it's the case, we will try to deflate (or at least to relativize) some of these rigid principles which are difficult to put aside.

1- When declarer shows a Poignée, I can't play trump

When we try to make the declarer to ruff, the goal we want to reach is either to overflow him, or to obtain profitable overtrumpings or uppercuts. When none of these objectives are reachable, making the declarer to ruff becomes an option much less interesting. Let's imagine a declarer with the following hand:

tarot 21-20-19-18-17-12-11-9-8-6-3-2-1
Spade 7-6-5-3-2
Heart -
Diamond -
Club -

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Some defenders, on the sight of the double Poignée, will think that it's urgent to find the ruff whereas actually it would be more realistic to think that it's completely useless. The only interesting possibility for the defense against this hand is to benefit from a possible bad break in Spade.

What would be your plan of play if you were the declarer? You would hurry yourself to give the losing Spade, without touching the trumps. You would not like that defenders with short Spade can discard points on your spades, but rather prefer that they ruff your losers ineffectively.

If it's in the advantage of the declarer to not touch the trumps, perhaps it's in the interest of the defense to not collaborate with him! As soon as declarer shows the double Poignée, the only good line of play for defense is to play trump, wishing the declarer will have some losers in his suits, on which it will be possible to discard. For example, if the Spade break 5-2-2 or 5-3-1 in defense (which are frequent distribution). Note: my example is obviously extreme, but I wanted to show an attacking hand against which the defense can't hope nothing. This said, less powerful attacking hands can also qualify for a defensive trump play.

And remember to not transform this example into absolute rule! Systematically playing trump against the Poignées is not a better principle than systematically make declarer to ruff. Remember this old Chinese proverb:

The end of the certainty gives splendid flowers.
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2- Declarer's left-hand opponent must open all the suits

This one is often heard. The partisans of this theory would like that the defender who plays before the declarer opens the suits one after the other like a robot, even when declarer already ruffs 2 suits. They ignore that tarot is a dynamic game where times wasted to lead in the secondary suits or high honors of declarer can be very expensive. We prefer the following principles for the defender placed before:

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3- We should never play in declarer's long suit

Here's another principle of the defensive play which suffers several exceptions, the most known being "the return in declarer's long suit to save the Petit in defense". This rescue play is often over-estimated by some players who systematically lead a short suit with the Petit vulnerable in hand. Although it is sometimes justified to try it, this play is risky for several reasons:

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There is some cases where the return in declarer's long suit is playable, without involving the rescue of the Petit. For example, a player could try to make on a ruff a small tarot which the declarer would have captured as soon as it would have taken the lead. Example:

Declarer's hand:
tarot 21-11-10-9
Spade -
Heart -
Diamond -
Club Q-1

Your hand:
tarot 19-8
Spade Q
Heart x-x
Diamond -
Club 2

Declarer plays the 11 of trump for your 19. Resume of the situation:

Declarer has 2 losers in hand, one club and one trump. He just conceded the trump loser to your 19. If you return a Spade or a coeur to make him ruff, he will extract your last tarot before conceding the losing Club on which you will not even be able to discard a valuable card since you hold another club.

It's an ideal situation to return your last Club instead of making him ruff. Declarer will find your play very unpleasant ! Since there remains a small trump in defense and declarer does not know where it is, there is a good chance that he does not dare to go up with the queen to risk the ruff. He will play small and your partner will take the lead. Just hope your partner understood the situation and return his last Club to give you the ruff of declarer's QClub.

Another situation where it can be interesting to play in declarer's long suit is when we want to eliminate a card that will force us to make an unfavourable lead. For example, in end of game:

Declarer's hand:
tarot 21-19
Spade K-C
Heart 5
Diamond -
Club -

Defender's hand:
tarot 20-18
Spade Q-x
Heart K
Diamond -
Club -

The defender has the lead and declarer's long suit is Heart. If the defender wants to make his QSpade, he must absolutely cash the kHeart before giving the lead to declarer with a trump. If he omits to cash it and only play the 20 of trump, declarer will cash the 19 and play the last Heart to endplay the defender with the KHeart. The defender will be forced to lead from Q-x in spade and will lost 2 the 2 tricks.

Updated: 07/02/2016

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