One example is if West leads a Q (top of a sequence) against a NT contract, and East plays K from Kx to unblock. If allowed to hold the trick, East would lead back the x.

My understanding is that bridge play is designed to protect certain vulnerable holdings, such as tenaces, in the declarer's hand from direct attack by the opening leader, West.

But if the tenace suit is led by East, its vulnerability will be fully exposed. Should East be on the lookout for potential vulnerable holdings in South, and overtake West's lead if an examination of his cards and dummy (and a review of the bidding) leads to a suspicion that South may have such a vulnerable holding? Here is an example of what I mean.

  • 1
    Just listen to the auction, both the bids and the silent calls, and play good solid defense without being on the lookout for unusual plays. Looking too long or hard under one particular lamppost will blind you to the goodies under all the others. The circumstances in which it is worthwhile for the defense to waste a high card in this fashion are unusual, which is why bridge columnists love such examples. Jan 25, 2014 at 22:27
  • @PieterGeerkens: One of the problems I am trying to deal with in bridge is one of what I call "redundant honors." That is being unwilling to sacrifice an honor by "unblocking," or save an entry by overtaking, or ditching a potential throw in honor for good, strategic reasons. I'm not sure about the average player, but I lose more tricks and games by wrongly "conserving" than by sacrificing honors.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 25, 2014 at 23:09
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    You will doom yourself to permanent mediocrity by attempting to memorize rules. Learn to read the cards at the table, and study (books, newspaper columns or other) in order to extend your toolkit. Study squeezes and throw-ins until you can recognize them on defence as well as declarer play. Only this will improve your play beyond an intermediate level. Jan 25, 2014 at 23:13

2 Answers 2


No; overtaking partners honour should not be on East's list of possible actions as dummy comes down.

That is not to say that it is never right for East to do so; or that East should never take such an action.

Rather, there are far too many more important things for East to be studying as Dummy comes down than a check-list of rare and unusual plays. Any such bold action can only be performed confidently through an extremely good picture of the hand, and how the defensive setting trick is to be developed. Such an understanding of the hand will only be hindered, significantly, by spending (need I say wasting) valuable seconds considering a list of circumstances that only occur every one or two hundred hands.

If the action is correct, and one obtains through more efficient means a sufficient picture of the hand to predict this as required to establish the setting trick, it will then become an obvious action.

In the example hand, a count of Hearts and inspection of the Club tenace over Dummy, makes overtaking Partner's HQ obvious. The Heart AJ are both tricks unless Declarer rushed into No Trump with a singleton HJ; and no other Hearts can promote over East's KJT9. If West has HJ alone remaining, the H8 return by East will make clear that a Club return is desired if West gets in again and started with just 2 Hearts.

  • I thought that kind of play was a bit unusual (order of magnitude 1 in 10) but I didn't realize that it was "rare" (more like 1 in 100).
    – Tom Au
    Jan 28, 2014 at 2:08
  • @TomAu: In truth, I doubt that even one in a hundred is accurate; that is once in 4 rounds for some East to be advantaged by overtaking West's lead. It seems more likely to be one in 500 or so hands at best. Jan 29, 2014 at 3:11

Yes, East should certainly consider overtaking the lead; thinking is usually better than not thinking. But what conclusion he reaches will depend on the bidding (presumably South has the A if the NT contract was freely bid), the expected layout of the suit, and how many times the defence can expect to get in to lead the suit. Inflexible rules that take no account of what information you have will do more damage to your score than anything except forgetting what is trumps.

Edit: if East believes the Q is from QJ10, it would be sensible to unblock the K; if just the QJ, probably not. But the question as asked is about overtaking in order to tick the box 'lead through a tenace', which is a bad idea, and will remain so even if in this case it (improbably) provides a good result.

  • I opined that East should CONSIDER overtaking partner's lead, not that he should automatically do so. The "other information" he has is part of that consideration.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 26, 2014 at 15:31

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