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Ducking Declarer's Non-Trump Exit?
ToreadorElder posted several very informative threads in this Forum about when to "duck" the Declarer's trump exit as Declarer's LHO (second seat).  This got me thinking about whether there would ever be an appropriate time to duck Declarer's non-trump exit.  There are some obvious situations where it would be good to do so - for example, if your partner has shown aces around and all other aces have been accounted for (either played by the Declarer or in your hand).  But other than that...?

I ran into a situation where I ducked blindly - I wasn't sure the trick would make it to my partner, but there was nothing compelling me to take the lead, and I figured it was worth a shot.  I don't remember the hand exactly (I didn't grab the hand history), but I had something like AC  TC  TC  TC  XC  XC  XC  XD  XD  XD  XD  AS  AS  KS  JS  AH  TH  XH  XH  XH to begin the hand, with Clubs as trump.

Declarer cashed her aces, including one in Spades, then exited with  QS.  At this point, I figured there was a good chance my  ASs would be good, since I only had 4; and perhaps I could run the trump and make  AH  TH both good.  (Otherwise, again there was a good chance at least one would be a winner - so not a lot of risk.)  I played  KS, LHO played  TS, and my partner took it with  AS - so it worked out.  In fact, the rest of the hand played out very nicely and we wound up pulling 32 or 33, setting our opponents.  (If I remember correctly, I did wind up making both  AH and  TH winners, and took the last 3 tricks with  AC  TC  TC.)

Was this a good strategic play on my part, or did it just work out in this situation?  Would there be any other situations where it would be good to duck a non-trump exit?
[in the following post, I will be referring to the ducker as "LHO" -- Declarer's LHO]

Slightly different from your scenario, it seems to me that ducking when you (as LHO to Declarer) *know* your partner (as RHO to Declarer) will win the trick IS THE BEST CHOICE for three categorical reasons.

Position advantages from ducking:
1. It sets up the declarer's partner to be the last to become trick leader and puts his/her aces at risk.
2. It avoids the future choice of how LHO will reach RHO.
3. As RHO plays out aces, the risk of declarer trumping increases.  By positioning the declarer in the second-to-throw seat (versus last-to-throw seat when LHO is trick leader), declarer is burdened with the challenge of using the correct trump card strength to win the trick.  Conserving trump strength is simple when you are last-to-throw. 

Point advantages from ducking:
1. It may require declarer's partner to play a counter on a trick to be raked in by the defense.

2. If declarer trumps RHO future lead, then LHO knows not to put a counter on the trick.
3. RHO becoming 2nd trick leader means a greater likelihood of LHO becoming 3rd trick leader and means fewer of the defense's aces will be caught on average.  (Not ducking means LHO will lead 2nd, and RHO is often 4th to lead.) 

Communication advantage from ducking:
1. By ducking, in some cases, RHO may be able to deduce an exit suit which LHO is likely to win -- ensuring that the defense will be 2nd and 3rd trick leaders.

Hm, I've never bothered to think it all the way out like this.  Food for thought.
It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life. -- Mickey Mantle
I count only 19 cards.  If you had a 6th heart, there would be a mild risk of losing a heart trick.  Overall, tho, your analysis was correct.  

#1:  what are you going to do if you win?  Cash your side aces...then lead a spade?  Better to duck the spade immediately;  your tricks are not at great risk.

#2:  it will be MUCH better if partner gets in first.  As mick points out, his aces get cashed, making dummy's aces most at risk of a ruff.  

A very similar position exists when you are declarer with basically the same hand, and partner melds aces.  At trick 1, it's reasonable to lead a *low* spade.  YOUR aces aren't at much risk, and one thing you do not want is for your RHO to *ruff* one of your partner's aces...say:

AS , JS , KS , JS
AH , QH , KH , JH
AS , QS , KS , JS
JS , AS , QS , KS   (LHO is now in)
AH , QH , TH , XH
AH , QH , KH , XH
XH , AH , KC ,  ARGH!!!

Now RHO is in before your partner.  Ugh.  

If you start at trick 1 with a low spade, you build up 2 potential heart tricks, if you can get the trump out, and more importantly, you get your partner in as soon as possible.
I haven't worked through all the cases for ducking a non-trump exit, but Tigre did see one when there's really nothing to lose by ducking.  Smile  I'm *not* imposing a requirement that you'll gain something;  the gain is if you can get your partner in, because, well, you don't have anything anyway.

So...for the sake of definiteness, RHO is declarer, in clubs.  He cashes 1 spade ace and 2 diamond aces, for the sake of argument.  Also, no one melded aces.  I would probably duck with any of these hands:


why not?  Your diamond aces are 4th aces.  


This is big.  Your heart ace is safe enough.  You *really* want partner in, tho, if possible, because of the combination of issues in spades and diamonds...your length increases the risk that someone's ruffing.  With a competent declarer, it's NOT him.  But as with Tigre's hand...what would you do here, if you win the spade trick?  Cash heart ace first...that should be neutral.  Your partner probably doesn't have the other 3.  It's 50-50 for each ace that dummy or partner has it, so it's about 1 in 8 (actually slightly worse than that) for partner to have all 3.  So that's no help.  Then what?  Cash the other spade ace...ok.  BUT, when pard did start with the 4th ace, you now run the risk that dummy started with  XS XS XS and now he ruffs.  

Essentially:  look at the *failure* cases here, in terms of getting your partner in.  Every tactic outlined fails when dummy has the last spade ace, and partner does not have all 3 heart aces.

a)  win all 3 side aces fails when dummy has  XS XS XS *or less*, and pard doesn't have all 3 heart aces.
b)  win 1 spade ace, cash heart ace, then exit low in spades loses to dummy's  XS XS  and it runs the same backfire risk as ducking declarer's lead in the first place.  It does pick up the cases when pard has all 3 heart aces.

c)  duck the first spade ONLY loses to dummy's stiff spade...and rising with your ace doesn't help!

I reject b) because it's too muddled.  Are you cashing, or trying to get partner in?  Between a) and c)...the chance that dummy started with 3 spades is just too high to me.  If declarer had 5 spades, then there's 9 spades between dummy and partner.  Dummy with 3, pard with 6?  Haven't done the math, but it feels much more likely than pard having all 3 heart aces.
(06-23-2016, 12:26 PM)ToreadorElder Wrote:  I count only 19 cards.  If you had a 6th heart, there would be a mild risk of losing a heart trick.  Overall, tho, your analysis was correct.

7 Clubs + 4 Diamonds + 4 Spades + 5 Hearts = 20.

At any rate, I'm sure I had exactly 4 Spades, and exactly 5 Hearts.  The Diamonds and Clubs counts might've been off, but I do know I had one ace and 3 tens of Clubs.
You're right.  Never mind.  Never try to post Before Caffeine.

Anyway...Another reason that comes to mind is when you think declarer is sandbagging.  Say clubs is still trump, declarer ONLY cashes a spade ace then exits in spades.  You have:


Yeah, I can see going ahead to cash all 4 aces, but there is a risk declarer is sandbagging in either red suit.  You might need to know declarer's tendencies.

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