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Copyright 2002 by John Strichman (all rights reserved)

John Strichman is the author of
by JohnGalt Strichman

Valley Publishing - Richmond, Virginia


On the following hand, East bids Nil and West is on the lead on trick one.

Your Team: 265
Pones: 285

    North 2      
West 7         East 0  
    SOUTH 1

3 5 Q
2 8 9
3 4 8 9 Q
5 10
Obviously, your team needs to set the Nil bid in order to maintain a reasonable chance of winning the game. Since West has made such a strong bid, it may appear to be very unlikely that you will be able to succeed in your objective. This may not be the case.

On trick one, West leads the Ace of Hearts....North plays the King....East dumps his 10...and South unloads his nine.

West then leads the King of Clubs....North wins the trick with the Ace....East gladly throws his Queen....and South plays the 10.

North leads back the 3 of Clubs....East plays the 2....South plays his remaining Club, the 5....and West wins the trick with his lowest Club, the 6.

On trick 4, West leads the Jack of Hearts (this was his last Heart)....North plays the 7....East the 6....and South gets rid of his 8.

On the next trick, West leads the 9 of Clubs (the 4, 7, 8, and Jack have not been played)....North ducks with the 4....East is able to go under with the 7....leaving you (South) to decide what card to play in the following situation. What card should you play in order to have the best chance of setting the Nil bid?

    North 2/1      
West 7/3         East 0/0  
    SOUTH 1/0

3 5 Q
3 4 5 8 Q
If you trump the trick with the Queen of Spades (or any Spade for that matter), you are making a very big mistake.

Almost always, when the covering opponent has made a high bid (6 to 7 or higher), he is holding many Spades in his hand. If he has 6 or 7 Spades in his hand, it means that he has very few cards in the three side suits.

As a result, he will frequently have a weakness in one of those side suits in terms of being able to protect his partner's Nil bid. If he is forced to lead trick after trick prior to Spades having been broken, he will be forced to lead lower and lower and riskier and riskier side suit cards. Consequently, you should do everything possible to keep the cover pone in the lead and prevent him from having the option of leading Spades. The way to accomplish this is to keep the breaking of Spades away from taking place for as long as possible.

In the hand in this example, there would be no benefit to your trumping the Club trick with the Queen of Spades. Due to West's high bid, the chance of setting East in Spades is virtually nonexistent, and there is no chance that you will not be able to make your bid (not that this should be a concern in this situation anyway).

Is Breaking Away really that important a Nil setting strategy?

Here is what happened on this hand.

South made the correct play on trick 5 of dumping the Queen of Diamonds. West won the trick and was stuck in the lead.

It turned out that West had 7 Spades in his hand and, consequently, had only one more side suit card, the 8 of Clubs.

West was forced to lead the Club 8 (only the Jack was still outstanding)....North dumped the King of Diamonds....poor East had the Jack!....and when South dumped a Diamond, the Nil was set.

North/South set the Nil (actually they forced West to set the Nil ) and went on to win the game. Had South made the typical play on trick 5 of trumping in, and very possibly leading back a low Diamond, West (having no Diamonds) would have been able to trump the lead and then begin leading his Spades. He still would have had the 8 of Clubs in his hand, but East most likely would have been able to dump the Jack on one of those Spades, and the team almost surely would have gone on to win the game.

In situations like this one, if you lose your patience and don't keep breaking away from the cover pone, chances are the opponents will not lose their Nil, but you will lose the game.


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