Dropping the Queen
I am taking a respite from my 1NT overcall series to make a comment on a bridge issue that has come to mind twice this week. Your worst fear will be realized, when I return and tell you how to get into the action after a 1NT overcall when you have playing tricks but not defensive values.
Earlier this week I was playing in a club game in Rochester, New York, with a relatively new partner and as often happens much is left undiscussed, even though it seems like you have spent hours weeding out one convention after another. What often does not get discussed are special defensive carding plays that have become reasonably standard over time, but which occur so rarely that they are often forgotten. They are often so rare that players can become life masters without ever encountering them. That happened to me with “Dropping the Queen.”
Back to the workshop. A few years ago in Rochester I am playing with my close friend and partner Jim Bailey. Now Jim is about as good a bridge player as a man of my limited ability is likely to attract. Jim is on lead one day against a part score contract and leads an Ace of an unbid suit. Now this is not a man who is going to lead an unsupported Ace against a part score so I assume he has the King of the suit. I am unfortunate to be holding the Q2, and think how excellent, I need to show him my doubleton in the suit so I can get a 3rd round ruff. I promptly play the Queen under his Ace and the next thing that pops out of his hand is not the King!! – Guess what he leads, and you can quit reading this blog post. Times up, it is the 3 of the suit, dummy plays the 4, and I with great disgust play my 2 and declarer takes the trick with a 5.
Now if you are into bridge arcana, you know that this is a “first cousin” to a Wish Trick, and certainly close enough for wish trick expert Nick Nickell. I ended up wishing all right, wishing I wasn’t there. Now when Jim wants to make point for which he will brook no argument or explanation two of the first three words in the sentence are “Standard Bridge.” It’s “Standard Bridge” that …. (Point to follow). It doesn’t make any difference if there is another viewpoint; “Standard Bridge” means I don’t want to hear about it. On this day I learned that in “Standard Bridge” when you hold Qx you cannot play the Queen under the Ace unless you hold the Jack or a singleton Queen, since the Queen asks partner to underlead the King to put you on lead.
So what do you do with the Q2 doubleton? You play the 2 and hope that partner will not impute too much to it and follow with his King. If he does and sees your Queen fall under his King, he will figure it out. This is why carding is better regarded as a suggestion and not as a command. At least this view gives partner a chance to use his judgment and figure it out. If he does, you will get your ruff anyway and if he doesn’t it is the price you pay for the common understanding about dropping the Queen.
Although not a frequent occurrence in day to day play, I have had this issue come up twice this year, once when I was on lead and the other when I was third hand. In the case where I was on lead I had overcalled clubs with AQxxx in clubs and held the AKx in a side suit. I led the Ace, partner played the Queen, and because the rule was tattooed in my head I managed to underlead the King and hope. Since my partner was an expert, there was not much risk. Sure enough he came up with the Jack and promptly led clubs trapping declarer’s Kx.
Last Tuesday my partner overcalled diamonds on AQxxx and had AKx of hearts. I held QJx of hearts. I also had the KJx of diamonds. Partner and I had a mix up about leads and signals so we did not execute it properly. It should go A of hearts (drop the Queen), small heart to the Jack and diamond through declarer. As it turned out declarer pitched his two diamonds and we got a Dunkin’ Donut on the board. I could send my partner to the Jim Bailey survival school or, better yet, just discuss carding with him in more detail. But this does illustrate the important point. You need to discuss not just systems and conventions with your partner, but defensive issues as well.
Remember that it is important to talk about not only when to drop the Queen, but those times when you have Q doubleton and cannot drop the Queen. Did I even check on old Bailey to see if he anyone else agreed with him? Of course, but I had to go no further than Eddie Kantar’s book on Defense.
This all came to mind when I read Frank Stewart’s Bridge Column of August 10. He was discussing Edgar Kaplan’s brilliance as a defensive genius. Kaplan’s partner led the Ace of a suit in which Kaplan held the QT doubleton. Partner continued with the King and Kaplan then made the winning play. Frank never told us what Kaplan played under the Ace on trick one, but I will bet my wrist watch it wasn’t the Queen. Notice how convenient it is to have the ten and not the deuce for your second card. Well now I have made my point. I hope old Jim is still my friend and partner as he was when I stated this post.