Strip and End Play

The End Play or Throw In is when the Declarer at a strategic moment makes a Defender win a trick. Stripping does not mean taking off your clothes in order to distract a Defender (this does sometimes work), but it is removing the Defender's safe exit card. The End Play is also called an Elimination Play because Declarer eliminates the Defender's way out of his hand. So when Defender does get the lead he is forced to give up a trick. Tricky, tricky.
     Before we go on to this month's hand, let's look at some examples of suit combinations in which the Declarer will get a trick only if a Defender leads that suit.
DUMMY          DUMMY         DUMMY       
# J 8 3                  $ Q 4 3                u A J 4

HAND             HAND             HAND         
# K 6 2                $ J 6 5                 u K 10 5
   1                2                 3               

In EXAMPLE 1 Declarer can lose 3 tricks if he plays the Club suit. That assumes the Q # is behind the J # and the A # is behind the K #. But if any Defender leads Clubs the Declarer is guaranteed one trick.
       In EXAMPLE 2 if the A $ and the K $ are is different hands (a 75% chance), the Declarer will lose all three tricks. But again if the suit is led by the Defense, one trick will be guaranteed in the Spade suit.
     In EXAMPLE 3 the Declarer has to guess where the Q u is. If a Defender leads a Diamond the guess is eliminated and the Declarer makes 3 Diamond tricks.

West leads the K u.  The Declarer can play the A u. But when East gets the lead with the A #, East still has a Diamond and will play it. West wins. Now it is curtains (perhaps drapes) for the Declarer. The Diamond suit is set up and West will take the rest of the tricks in that suit. The Defenders will take 4 Diamond tricks and the A #.  Note: the 2 u now becomes a winner for West.
       What is Declarer to do? Cry, leave the room, accept defeat? No! She can execute a HOLD UP play. (A gun and an mask are not needed for this, but just some patience and courage.)
       Do not win the first Diamond trick; play the 5 u on the first trick. Do not win the second Diamond trick; play the 6 u. The Declarer has to win the third Diamond. But look what has happened. East has no more Diamonds. And if East happens to win a trick and get the lead, East cannot lead a Diamond to his partner. The HOLD UP play has severed the link between the Defenders. The Defenders took 2 tricks immediately. But without the HOLD UP play they would have gotten 4 Diamond tricks.
      Now let's look at this month's hand.

South, with 16 High Card Points (HCP) and a balanced hand, opens the bidding with 1 No Trump.  If North/South's  No Trump range is 16 - 18 points, then North with 10 points knows that the combined point count is definitely in the Game Zone of 26 points. 10 + 16 = 26. 
      So, North bids game directly, which is 3 No Trump. Note: North does NOT bid 
2 No Trump. The 2 No Trump bid is an Invitational bid and can be passed by South. 
      If game is there, bid it. Do not worry about making or not making the contract. If you made every contract that was bid, there would be no need to ever play the hands. Just bid and score. And if you are making every contract that you bid, then you are probably not bidding high enough. Bridge matches are usually lost by under bidding not over bidding. 

Since the Defenders make the opening lead, they have the advantage: they can set up their long suit before the Declarer can set up hers. 
      Timing is important in lots of things: the stock market, real estate, juggling and Bridge. And the time is NOW. Bang down the K $. 
     In general, the best lead, from both the attacking and safety point of view, is from the top of a sequence. Once the A $ is played, West  has 4 winners in the Spade suit. The problem for the Defense of course is: how does West regain the lead?

Dummy comes down. Do not play a small Spade. Make a plan first. A good plan is based on counting, and in a No Trump contract Declarer counts winners off the top.  That is, tricks you can win without having to give up the lead. Also, assume all finesses will lose and the worst possible distribution. So let's do it. 
      1 Spade;  3 Hearts; 1 Diamond; and 1 Club.  That makes a total of 6 winners; three tricks short of what is needed to make 3 No Trump.  What  to do? 
     PLAN: Obviously the Club suit is the only source of tricks. Once the K C is out, there will be 4 winners in that suit. The problem is, that if the Defense takes the 
C they will also take 4 Spades for down one. After losing to the K C, the Declarer must prevent West from getting the lead. This can be done with the use of the HOLD UP play. 
      PLAY: Do not win the first trick; play the 5 S from Dummy on the K S,  and then the 3 S from the hand. Do not win the second trick. (Assuming West continues with the Q S.) Play the 10 S from Dummy and the 7 S from the hand. On the third trick discard from Dummy a card in a red suit on the J S and win this trick with the A S. Now take the Club finesse by playing the Q C and letting it ride. 
       East wins with the K C, but has no more Spades. This is because the Declarer executed the HOLD UP play for the first two tricks. By holding up for 2 rounds, Declarer has cut the connection between the Defenders. There is no way East can get to his partner's hand. Neither the Staten Island ferry, the Concord nor Amtrak will do it. 
       Declarer wins whatever East returns, and then cashes out by taking 8 winners: 4 Clubs, 1 Diamond and 3 Hearts. These 8 tricks plus the A S makes 9 winners. Thus, the contract of 3 No Trump is made.

QUESTION: Could Declarer HOLD UP for only one round? 

The Defense is pretty straightforward. West could shift to a Diamond at trick three. But Declarer plays small from Dummy, East wins with the K D
       No matter what East leads, Declarer wins and takes the Cub finesse and eventually comes up with the 9 tricks needed for game.