Spot the Difference

Spot cards in bridge are those from the 9 down to the 2. They are rarely given as much attention as the other ones, the honour cards AKQJ10. That’s because these low cards are unlikely to be important in winning a trick. And anyway in some cases the value is irrelevant: if you’ve played three rounds of a suit and all have followed then the last one is going to be high (i.e. the top one) no matter what value it is.

But sometimes you might get an awkward question from partner “Did you watch your spot cards?” which will invariably mean that you didn’t but that you should have. See if you can spot the winning play in this hand:

For better or worse, for richer or poorer, North South landed in a 2 contract with 24 high card points in total.

The lead of the 8 through the King on the table was not good news for declarer. So he could expect no presents from the opponents today then! He ducked hoping that East did not have the Queen. Because if East was forced to play the Ace it would make his K high and set him up to finesse the 10 on the table later. All dreams though, bad luck, the East did have the Q and won the first trick with it:

East then returned the 9. Declarer played the 10 hoping now that West didn’t have the Jack. No luck again, as the Jack was played. Declarer decided to take charge of this game and won trick 2 with the Ace:


With only 7 spades in total he was a bit nervous about pulling trumps at this point. So, with idea of leading to the ♣Q on the table later hoping King was with West, he played the ♣2 to win with the Ace in hand first for trick 3:


Continuing as planned he lead a club and had his first piece of good luck when he saw West play the King to win trick 4:

Good news: the Queen on the table was now high. Bad news:  how was he to get over there to enjoy it? With the A most likely with East the K on the table didn’t look like a good entry. And with the A gone there was no other obvious entry to table left. In fact declarer never did get back to table….

West continued by playing the 5. Declarer ducked again and the Ace appeared from East as expected who won trick 5. And lead the 8


The K and 10 on the table were high now but, like the ♣Q could not be reached. This was getting annoying. The opponents took a diamond trick for trick 6:

West then lead another diamond for East to ruff and win trick 7. Declarer held two spot cards in his hand the 4 and 2 and, not caring much which he played, automatically played the lowest:

The opponents then played a trump, and declarer, noting that the opponents had ruffed once decided to hope that the Q would drop when he eventually played trumps. So he went up with the Ace instead of finessing the Jack to win trick 8:

These were the hands now, from declarer’s perspective. Four trumps were still held by the opponents, including the Queen and the 9. What was he to do next?

Declarer changed his plan – almost always a BAD idea. Being worried about losing a trick with his 4 he decided to ruff it on the table. When West played the 3 ever-hopeful declarer imagined East would be forced to over-ruff with the Queen! If he had thought a bit more he would have concluded that this was wishful thinking. Indeed his ♠4 was overruffed by East’s spot card the ♠8 for trick 9:

Down one so far for declarer. East then lead the 2. Declarer suspected a ruff from West so decided to ruff high-ish with the Jack. Oops, not necessary, a false alarm but anyway he won trick 10 :

Back to the original plan and in fact there was nothing else to do now for trick 11 but to play the ♠K and hope to take the Queen. Bingo! It worked:

The Queen was offside with West too so declarer was pleased he hadn’t try to finesse his Jack earlier and lose.  Finally things were going his way. His last two trumps were the only ones left in the game so he claimed tricks 12 and 13 with the ♠10 and the ♠3. That was 7 tricks in total, so the contract was down one.

Well, did you spot it?

YES – at trick 8, declarer’s spot card the 4 was actually high because the only other one out was the  3.  Declarer could have made the contract by drawing trumps then and winning with the 4.

The full hand again:

Spot the Ball is a newspaper competition where you have to guess where the ball has been erased from a photograph of a football match. In this game declarer took his eye off the ball for one moment and it cost him the game, but that’s bridge for you.

One thought on “Spot the Difference

  • 27. November 2019 at 23:29

    …as well the defender didn’t pay much attention and has ruffed the partner’s high card 7 of Diamonds… Or he did it on purpose and just wanted to confuse the declarer by immediately leading trump?
    Anyway, thanks a lot for the article! Not solely by thorough planning, but also by paying attention to what’s going on on the table at the right moment one can win even the unwinnable.


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