Defensive Play

Defending well is more difficult than playing as declarer, as you don’t have the benefit of seeing your partner’s hand. As a consequence, defenders use a system of opening leads, signals and plays designed to help them deduce what their partner holds.
Paying attention during the bidding is vital for defenders, as is counting the cards that have gone and noting the number of tricks still needed to defeat the contract. When you have no clear-cut direction to take, there are a number of guides that can be useful, but they are guides only and should not be followed blindly:

1.    Second hand usually plays low – the rationale behind this guide is that your partner still has a chance to win the trick, but you should play high in second position if you can win the trick and it is the trick that will defeat the contract.
2.    Third hand usually plays high – the idea here is that your partner has already played and you are the only one who can win the trick, and even if you cannot win the trick, if you play high to tease out your opponents’ high cards you can promote possible high cards in your partner’s hand.
3.    Cover an honour with an honour if it will build up a trick for you or partner – You should cover an honour card led by declarer only if it can benefit your side, by promoting a trick for you or possibly promoting one for your partner.
4.    Usually return your partner’s lead

Resources for Defensive Play

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K. Hollander