Dormer on Deception

The Field of Tactics

So far we have been considering how the declarer can work little ploys* on his opponents within the confines of a single suit. It is time to admit that these capers, although very fine, are not the sole test of a would-be Machiavelli.
Anyone can learn to handle specific combinations of cards. Your genuine schemer, however, does not rely on learning by rote, for he has succeeded in developing a special attitude of mind. He can therefore improvise. He can invent ways of getting the opponent to go the wrong way. In short, he can deceive opponents about his basic plan as well as about specific cards. For example:

♠ 10 6 4
K 8 7 5
9 3
♣ A K 7 2
♠ A Q 8 3 2
A 4
10 5
♣ Q 8 6 3

South is declarer at a spade partial and West leads the 2. The only real point to the hand is how many trump tricks are due to be lost.
As this does not seem the sort of deal where declarer may encounter an adverse ruff, he should, rather than tackle trumps straight away, try to persuade the opponents to lead one.
The deceptive thing to do, therefore, is to put up dummy’s K and lead a diamond. With any luck the opponents may attack trump, thinking declarer is planning a crossruff.
Defenders do not have X-ray eyes, and frequently they cannot tell, early on, what the hand is all about. They will then tend to do the opposite of what you appear to be trying to do. Your job is to sell them a false idea of what you are up to. Thus, when you really do want to crossruff, you try to make it appear that nothing is further from your thoughts.

♠ 10 7 3
Q 10 2
A 9 8 5 3 2
♣ 10
♠ Q 8 5 2
K J 9 8 4
♣ A K Q

You are at a heart partial and the K is led. Naturally your mind turns to the possibility of discarding two spades on the clubs, aiming for two or three spade ruffs, which no doubt would produce a very fine score. “Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished” — but you shouldn’t forget that the opponents, too, play a mean game of marbles. If you start by cashing your club winners, they will simply fire back ace-and-another-trump when you concede a spade, curtailing your ruffs.
To disguise your intentions you should lead a spade from dummy at trick two, boldly playing the queen. It is most unlikely that West will have a hand with which it will seem right to continue spades. On a diamond or a club return, the hand is plain sailing.
Defenders tend to follow the same principle as the hard-pressed mother who instructed her elder child to find out what Johnny was doing and tell him to stop. The crafty declarer tries to exploit that tendency. A hand played by British star Maurice Harrison-Gray, who made it a habit to think along those lines, is a good example.

♠ K 9
A J 10 8 3 2
10 5
♣ J 7 4
♠ Q 10 8 7 4 3 2
K 4
Q 6
♣ K 5

Gray opened the bidding with 3♠, West doubled and that became the final contract. West cashed the KA, then shifted to the ♣A on which East disposed the eight-spot. West continued with a low club.
Declarer’s problem was whether to take a first-round finesse of the ♠9, playing West for A-J-x, or go for the 2-2 break. He hatched a plan that he hoped would take the guesswork out of the situation.
The plan involved selling West the idea that declarer still had a losing club and would discard it on dummy’s hearts if allowed to enter dummy.
On West’s second club lead declarer played dummy’s jack to create the illusion that he held three clubs. The jack was covered by the queen. Declarer won and proceeded to lay down the K, hoping West would think it was a singleton.
He continued with a low spade and poor West, who really did have ♠A J x, was on the spot. “If I play low,” he thought, “declarer may finesse the nine, discard a club on the A, and make the contract.” So West went up with the ace.
*ploy: a tactic intended to embarrass or frustrate an opponent

The Zoom Room is available Monday through Friday, 3:30 pm-5:30 pm (Eastern).

Getting help is easier than ever with the ACBL Zoom Chat service.
Simply click the "Join Zoom Chat" button below to be taken to our dedicated zoom room.
Once there, click the "Launch Meeting" button to start your session. To hear us and vice-versa - don't forget to "Join with computer audio."

If the Zoom Room isn't available and you need answers, you can email us at

Join Zoom Chat