Make your own free website on


Jeff Rubens


Honor Thy Partner. Show that you treat his problems as your own and actively help solve them.


In 1972 at the age of 29. Rubens won the Spingold in 1972 and represented North America the 1973 Bermuda Bowl. He is the author of such profound works as Secrets of Winning Bridge (published in Britain by Robert Hale), is editor of the Bridge World; all this in addition to a successful career as an academic. Jeff has a lawyer type of face, clever and narrow, with pronounced dark eyebrows.


That partners, by and large, are obtuse and likely to do the wrong thing is a proposition to which we would all agree, Jeff Rubens offers counsel on this matter in a tip entitled ‘Honor thy Partner’.


‘Car A signals for a left turn but starts to turn right, then suddenly brakes to a stop. Whereupon Car B, travelling behind Car A at a normal distance and speed, crashes into a tree.


‘Bridge crashes are often of this sort. One of the defenders makes a losing play but his partner was at fault. There is not only a loss on the deal, but also a drop in partnership moral. We seem to mind more when partner causes us to make the fatal move than when he makes it himself.


‘A player should be alert to partner’s problems as well as his own. Everyone tries to help partner by signaling, but better players should aim to go much further.


‘For example, a good partner tries to remove undesirable options. If you can see it would be a losing play for partner to duck with an ace in front of dummy’s K-J, prevent it by leading the suit yourself. If you cannot get in to lead the suit, perhaps you can discard the queen behind dummy’s K-J!


‘Everyone knows those end positions when by cashing a winner near the finish you put partner to a guess. Always consider whether it might be better to lead a suit to which you know partner will follow.


‘Where players fall down is in failing to notice that partner may have a problem. Once the problem is seen, protective measures are usually quite simple.


South Dealer; East-West vulnerable


                                     K 10 9 8

                                     Q 9

                                     A 10 9 4

                                    ♣ Q 10 3

            ♠ 5 4                       N             ª 9 6 3 2

            K 10 8 7 5   W            E     © A 6

            8 6                                     ¨ Q J 3

                        § 9 7 4 2                S             ¨ 8 6 5

                                                ª J 6 2

                                                © J 4 3 2

                                                © Q J 3

                                                § A K J




     Pass       1ª     Pass   1NT

     Pass     3NT     Pass   Pass




‘West leads the 7 of hearts against 3NT and you win with the ace. The heart position is easy to read: if the 7 is fourth best, West must hold the king, since he would have led the jack from J-10-8-7. The defence should therefore be able to take two spades, two hearts and a diamond. But there is a danger: if you return a heart at trick two partner will duck, playing you for A-x-x. Then the king of hearts will be lost to the defence. To avoid this, lead something else at trick two, such as the 8 of clubs. Leave the heart return to later – best of all until you have already notched four defensive tricks.


‘You can keep even a sleepy partner from harm by removing his losing choice altogether.


South dealer; Both vulnerable

                                                ª 9 6

                                                © K J 5

                                                ¨ Q J 10 8 6

                                                § 10 8 6

                        ª K 10 7 5 4          N             ª A 8 3 2

                        © Q 6 4 3       W            E     © 9 7 2

                        ¨ A 2                                     ¨ 4 3

                        § K 9                     S             § J 7 5 3

                                                ª Q J

                                                © A 10 8

                                                ¨ K 9 7 5

                                                § A Q 4 2


‘South opens 1NT and all pass. Sitting West, you lead the ª5 to the 6, ace and jack. East returns the ª2 and you win with the king.

‘You can see six tricks – seven so long as a club is established before the ace of diamonds has been forced out. But you know what will happen with some partners if you return ª 4: he will win with the 8 and return a spade. You will win the argument that follows, but South will make the contract.

‘Avoid this by returning, not the ª4, but ª7. Partner will hardly overtake this to lead another spade, and when he wins the fourth round the club shift will be more or less forced.

‘Occasionally, the technique to help partner will be more complicated:


South dealer; North-South vulnerable


                                                ª K J 7

                                                © A Q 8

                                                ¨ A Q 8

                                                § K Q 7 4

                        ª 10 9 8                  N            ª 6 5 3 2

                        © J 9 7 5         W           E      © 10 4 2

                        ¨ J 9 7 5                                ¨ 10 4

                        § 9 8                       S             § J 10 6 5

                                                ª A Q 4

                                                © K 6 3

                                                ¨ K 6 3 2

                                                § A 3 2


‘South opens 1NT and North, beating around no bushes, raises straight to 7NT. West leads the ª10.


‘Playing shrewdly, South cashes three spades, king and ace of clubs, then leads a club to dummy’s queen. Poor West now has a ghastly decision, with over 2000 points hanging on whether he parts with a diamond or heart.


‘Since neither suit has been played, can East help his partner in any way? Think about it.


‘When South fails to lay down his cards at trick one, the whole deal is an open book to East. South must hold both red kings, so he has twelve tricks on top. The defense will have a problem only if West holds four cards of each red suit and will be in trouble when he has to find a discard.


‘If East addresses his mind to this problem in time, he can help his partner by vigorous suit-preference play, first with the ª6, then with the §J. This says to West, "Don’t bother about hearts, but if you have four diamonds, cling to them!"


My bridge tip is this: Honor Thy Partner. Show that you treat his problems as your own and actively help him solve them. Amazingly, this will improve not only partner’s defense but also his overall performance. He will be playing more carefully in order to be worthy of your respect.’


Much damage is caused by partnership co-operation by the ingrained habit of playing high in third position on the opening lead. In these examples, West has led ‘top of nothing’:

K J 9

6 LED                       10 7 4 2


West led the 6 and dummy plays the 9. It is silly, either in a suit contract or notrumps, to cover with the 10. Declarer will win with the ace and West may uselessly pursue the same attack when next in the lead. From his point of view, you might hold Q-10-x.

It is doubly foolish to contribute a high honor that cannot possibly promote a trick:


Q 10 6

5 LED                         K 8 7 3


Declarer, holding A-J-9 or A-J-9-x, will put in the queen, partly to smoke out the king, partly to conceal his strength. If East, with K-x-x or K-x-x-x covers the queen, then declarer will have achieved both his objectives and West will be left in the dark. Again:


K 7 4

6 LED                       J 9 5 2


Here it looks as though partner has led into declarer’s A-Q-10-8. Don’t make the damage worse by playing the jack, for then declarer will win with the ace and West may cherish the belief that h has made a sagacious opening towards his partner’s Q-J-9-x-x.


Pursuing the theme that a defender should strive to remove his partner’s losing options, Rubens later proposed a name for all those plays which have as their special object the provision of help for partner – ‘The Bols Coup’. Sometimes it helps to cash a winner in an outside suit before leading the critical suit. Rubens gives this example:


South dealer; Both vulnerable


                                                ª K Q J 10 2

                                                © A J 4 2

                                                ¨ K 4 2

                                                § Q

                        ª 6 5                      N            ª A 9 7 3

                        © 5 3               W           E     © 10 7

                        ¨ A Q 10 5                            ¨ 7

                        § J 9 7 5 2              S             § A 10 8 6 4 3

                                                ª 8 4

                                                © K Q 9 8 4

                                                ¨ J 9 8 6 3

                                                § K 



                   1ª     Pass     1©

     Pass       4©     Pass   Pass



‘West led a club to East’s ace and East made the obvious shift to the ¨7. South covered with the 8 and West (looking to East to hold the spade or heart king and at least one more diamond) made the obvious play of the 10. South then made a few obvious plays of his own and wound up discarding three diamonds on dummy’s spades, making his contract.


‘Obvious or not, West’s defense was reasonable. East’s was not. He should have removed his partner’s losing choice by cashing ªA BEFORE leading his diamond.’


And there is opposite situation: a defender may try to give his partner a ruff when no ruff is possible and where some other move would have succeeded. In these circumstances too a player can often remove the losing option. But the signals that tell partner NOT to try for a ruff are, says Rubens, more difficult to convey:


North dealer; None vulnerable

                                                ª K J 8 5

                                                © Q 5 3

                                                ¨ 6

                                                § K Q 10 9 4

                        ª 4 3                      N             ª A 7

                        © A J 8 6        W           E      © K 9 4

                        ¨ 10 9 5                                 ¨ K Q 8 7 4 2

                        § A 5 3 2                S             § 8 6

                                                ª Q 10 9 6 2

                                                © 10 7 2

                                                ¨ A J 3

                                                § J 7 



                   1§       1¨     1ª

       2¨       2ª     Pass   Pass

       3¨     Pass     Pass     3ª

     Pass     Pass   Pass


‘East and West are both good players and were testing out a partnership. West led ¨ 10: 6, queen, ace. South led the ª10 to East’s ace and East, appreciating that it might be necessary to put West in to attack hearts, shifted to the §8.


‘A shift now to ©J would have produced the desired result but West put on §A and tried to give East a club ruff, hoping the ace of hearts would be a reentry for a second ruff.


‘Well,’ asks Rubens, ‘which one would you want as your partner?


‘East had a clear chance to solve West’s problem, although few players would think of the correct play. He should have held up the ace of trumps for one round before leading clubs! To hold up a trump winner implies lack of interest in a ruff. Had East held up §A, West would have been warned against trying for a club ruff — and his best play is to shift to the ©J.’