A Bridge Phantasmagoria




One ‘raison d`etre’ for a hold-up is to relieve a bank of its filthy lucre. At the bridge table the aim of a hold-up is to deprive an opponent of the ability to lead a specific suit at a specific time. The trick is to know when the time is right to make the play. If you fancy a self-test on the following hands you should cover up the East-West cards before coming to a decision.


H 1053
D QJ102


S 106542
H 84
D K6
C 9853


S J8
H KQ976
D A54
C Q107


S Q93
D 9873
C K62


North opened One Diamond and over an overcall of One Heart by East, South bid 1NT. North raised to 2NT and South 3NT.

West leads the eight of hearts to East’s queen. Now take over.

It is all too easy to win the ace of hearts as a second heart trick is a certainty. You will have to go out twice in diamonds and if East has both the ace and king, you can kiss your contract goodbye so you must assume they are divided.

If you win at trick one and play a diamond, West will step up with the king to lead a second heart and East can clear the suit while he still has the ace of diamonds for entry, and down you go. You must hold up at trick one. You will still have two heart tricks by finessing and when you come to lead a diamond, West can win but will be out of hearts. Now you can establish diamonds while you still have the ace of hearts as a stop.

I wonder if you have sensed a faint aroma of fish about the foregoing account. An early warning system would have alerted East and he could forestall any hold-up. He should not have put up the queen at trick one. The nine would have signalled a wish for a continuation and forces South to win at once with the jack and now we have The Hold-up That Never Was.

Incidentally, South does better at trick one to go up with the ten as an attempt to stampede East into covering, and then the hold-up comes into its own.

And now we come to our second hand.


S 62
H K83
D 10875
C AQ103


S J9853
H 9765
D A2
C 72


S K107
H QJ104
D 963
C K85


H A2
C J964


South’s 1NT is raised to 3NT and West leads the three of spades to East’s king. Do you hold up?

Being a pessimist, South envisaged taking a losing club finesse. That meant losing the lead twice and therefore three spades and two tricks in the minors would go to the opponents.

Accordingly, he held up, expecting the suit to be continued. A disobliging East switched to the queen of hearts and this attack from a different angle proved fatal.

A hold-up was indeed necessary, but declarer had been precipitate in staging it at trick one. The ace should be taken and the ace of diamonds driven out. Now the spade return should be ducked and won on the third round. Now the club finesse can be taken safely to East who no longer has a spade.

One more for the road:


S A2
H K954
C KQ104


S K6
H J32
D 9872
C A985


S J109854
H Q76
D A10
C 72


S Q73
H A108
D K654
C J63


South arrived in 3NT after a butt-in of One Spade over North’s One Club opener. West leads the King of Spades. Do you win?

The lead indicates a 6-2 split and as two aces have to be removed, you are doomed if East has both, so you must work on the assumption that they are divided. If you win at trick one, it becomes a guessing game as to which minor to attack first. If you go for clubs you go down as West will come a second spade, but if you tackle diamonds, you will succeed. East can clear the spades but West will be out of spades when he wins the ace of clubs. A pure guess.

However, if you can resist the almost automatic reaction of grabbing West’s king with the ace, it is no longer a guessing game as it matters nought whether you tackle clubs first, as West will not have a spade in his hand.

A very definite case for a Hold-up.


by Carl Dickel