Meets every Thursday at 7.25 for 7.30
at Mountnessing Village Hall, Roman Road, Mountnessing, Essex, England, CM15 0UG

Freezing weather – time for a “frozen suit”…

Hand played on


Board number

15 (Computer Dealt)




North / South

Submitted by

Alaric Cundy


K Q 9 4

K J 5

A 8 5

J 9 2


A J 3

T 8 4 2

Q J 3

A 8 7


8 2

7 6 3

T 6 4 2

K T 5 3

The Bidding


T 7 6 5

A Q 9

K 9 7

Q 6 4

















It was a bitterly cold night on February 2nd - the air temperature in the car-park was down to -4 degrees by the time we left for home. However, inside the hall, it was warm and cosy – apart from Board 15, which threw up a fabulous example of a 'frozen suit'.

This article was intended to be about Declarer play tactics, but it is difficult to resist commenting on the bidding along the way. East / West were playing a system of one-level openings that included 3 five-card suits and a 15-17 range 1NT opening, so therefore 1C was the systemic opening on the hand. Few players would argue with North's take-out double, or with East's pass. South's 1S bid is anaemic, given that the bid was forced, and the only thing it promised was a holding of at least four spades. South does best to bid 2S rather than 1S, and to do so smoothly to avoid giving away any 'unauthorised information', e.g., an unintended hidden message such as “goodness, partner, this is a really rubbish quality suit, but I suppose I really should bid 2S “. West's 1NT rebid was intended to show a 12-14 HCP No Trump hand – but surely after the pass from partner it ought to show a hand that was too good for an original 1NT opening, i.e., at least 18 HCPs? Had either North or South managed to attach the red card to that bid, and followed it with a decent co-ordinated defence, then North / South would have been in clover. On the other hand, if that had happened, this hand would not have been drawn to my attention, and I would not have written this article! North's 2S is understandable – though it ought to show more strength than it had in practice, given the possibility / probability of very few high cards in the South hand. I think that South did well to bid 2NT – as a free bid, it shows both extra values (quite a lot of extra values, as it happens) plus a flat, balanced hand. Overall, North / South did very well to subside in 3S, albeit via a scenic route, and despite their combined 25 HCPs: with two absolutely 'flat' hands opposite each other, the hand ought to be devalued a little.

West started with the Queen of Diamonds – arguably the best lead from the Defence's viewpoint. On surveying the scene, and noting that most if not all the outstanding high cards should be in the West hand, Declarer should note that with due care there should be one loser in trumps, none in hearts, and one in diamonds. The fate of the contract therefore depends on the play of the club suit, where two losers can be afforded, but three would sink the contract.

Let us assume for the moment that Declarer has negotiated three suits as outlined above, without any mishaps or bad breaks, and is left to address the club suit. As the cards lie, it matters not whether Declarer plays clubs from Dummy or from hand: whatever and however Declarer may choose to play the suit, the Defence will come to three tricks. If you need to, try all possibilities and you will soon agree – unless the Defenders make a mistake: so long as the Defenders adopt the usual maxims, ie 'second player plays low' and do not 'hold off' at all, they are bound to make three tricks if Declarer leads any card in the suit from either hand.

Now let's see what happens if either Defender is the first player to lead clubs – it matters not whether that is East or West. Again, so long as Declarer remembers that 'second player plays low', one club trick is bound to be won by North / South.

So it is clear that whichever side first touches the club suit will concede an unnecessary trick in the suit. This hand is a wonderful 'text-book example of a 'frozen suit', in effect summarised by the comment “he who dares, loses”.

At the table, Declarer won the opening lead in hand and immediately led a Spade, which West correctly ducked, so it was won by the King. Declarer then correctly transferred to hand via a top heart and led a second spade, which this time was correctly taken by West. West has a choice of equally valid returns at this point – in practice, the Jack of Spades, which was captured by Dummy's Queen, thus drawing all the outstanding trumps. Declarer now correctly cashed the two remaining top hearts to yield this 6-card end position:





















In practice, Declarer now chose to lead a Club towards Dummy: now, as illustrated earlier, it was inevitable that three tricks would be lost in the suit, so the contract failed by one trick, ultimately yielding 2 out of a possible 22 match points on the board for North / South. What Declarer might have spotted was that the diamond loser was unavoidable; if instead of playing on Clubs, the Ace of diamonds is played, followed by the last diamond, then, unless both Defenders wildly unblock and thus set up the 9 as an unexpected third diamond trick for Declarer, one or other of the defenders will win, but will be 'end-played'. If West wins, then the choice of exit will either be the last heart, yielding a 'ruff and discard', enabling Declarer to make the two trumps separately, or he will be forced to lead a Club; if East wins, there is no choice but to lead a club. Whatever choices the Defenders make, Declarer will gain the all-important ninth trick – contract made! A making 3S contract would have yielded 20 out of 22 match points, and in a very tight final ranking list, would have propelled North / South many places up in the final listing....

Conclusions & Tips

  1. Whether you are Declarer or a Defender, do keep an eye out for a 'frozen suit' and do your best to persuade or force your opponents, rather than your side, to 'open it up'.

  2. If you establish that you and partner have duplicated 4-3-3-3, hands then devalue the combined strength a little

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