This series looks at the thirteen cards ranked from the two through the Ace, and the meaning and contribution each card can make to the defense. The two, three, four, and five – may be small – but have been shown to be powerful cards. Moving onward through the ranks, it’s sometimes difficult to interpret the six. Is it a small, big, or neutral card? As you will see, it depends. Use the seven wisely and this middle card can deliver unexpected results. As always, consider your cards within the context of a complete deal. The Messenger You are West and find yourself on lead after this auction: You lead your singleton ♥10, hoping to get a ruff. Here is dummy: All the hearts in dummy are equal, so declarer plays a low heart. Partner DEFENDERS' CORNER BY AUDREY GRANT SIXes and SEVENs Modest but Magnificent WEST NORTH EAST SOUTH 1♠ Pass 3♠ Pass 4♠ All Pass Dummy ♠ J 10 7 4 ♥ Q J 9 8 7 ♦ Q ♣ K 8 3 You n ♠ 6 3 w e ♥ 10 s ♦ A 10 7 6 ♣ 10 9 6 5 4 2 Declarer 4♠ Partner 8 Audrey Grant’s Better Bridge | May-June 2020 wins the ♥A as declarer plays the ♥4. Partner returns the ♥6, declarer plays the ♥5, and you ruff with the ♠3. So far, so good. Now what? The ♦A would be a third trick, but where is the fourth trick coming from? It would be nice if you find a winner in partner’s hand so partner can give you another heart ruff. Could partner hold the ♣A, a trump trick, or perhaps the ♦K? By returning the ♥6, partner has already given you a clue to the winning defense. In situations like this — where partner is giving you a ruff and knows that you will then have to decide what to do — the card partner returns is a suit preference signal. A low card shows preference for the lower-ranking of the two “obvious” suits — diamonds and clubs in this situation. A high card shows preference for the higherranking of the two suits. A middle card shows no preference. What is the ♥6? If partner had started with the ♥A-K, partner would have played the ♥K on the first trick. Since partner won the ♥A, partner has denied holding the ♥K, so declarer holds it. You’ve seen all the other cards higher than the ♥6. The only missing cards are the ♥3 and ♥2. The ♥6 must be partner’s highest heart, showing a preference for diamonds. If that’s the case, you can’t afford to play the ♦A. Instead, put your faith in partner’s signal and lead the ♦6. Here’s the full hand: Dummy ♠ J 10 7 4 ♥ Q J 9 8 7 4♠ ♦ Q ♣ K 8 3 You n Partner ♠ 6 3 w e ♠ 9 8 ♥ 10 ♥ A 6 3 2 s ♦ A 10 7 6 ♦ K J 5 4 2 ♣ 10 9 6 5 4 2 Declarer ♣ J 7 ♠ A K Q 5 2 ♥ K 5 4 ♦ 9 8 3 ♣ A Q If you lead the ♦6, partner can win with the ♦K and lead another heart for you to ruff... with the ♠6 of course! Those sixes really do their work on this hand. If you had led the ♦A, you would have no way to get to partner’s hand and declarer would take the rest of the tricks. The Right Attitude Now you’re sitting East defending against 4♠, and partner leads the ♥A. What’s your plan? Dummy ♠ A J 8 ♥ Q 5 4 4♠ ♦ A 4 ♣ A K 10 7 2 Partner n You w e ♠ Q 10 6 LEAD: ♥A ♥ 10 6 s ♦ K 96532 Declarer ♣ 9 6 It looks as though partner has the ♥A-K and you have a sure trick with the ♠Q-10-6 sitting over dummy’s ♠J. The only hope for the defense is if you can get a trick with the ♦K as well. That won’t happen if you play the ♥10 — an encouraging card — to the first trick. Partner will continue by leading the ♥K to give you a ruff. If you ruff the third round of hearts, however, that will be the last trick for the defense. Declarer can win whatever you return, draw the remaining trump, and discard the diamond loser on dummy’s clubs. Here’s the complete hand: