When to Cover an Honor with an Honor

I teach a lot of beginner classes. One of the first tips I give for defensive card play is, “Second hand low (unless covering an honor with an honor) , third hand high (unless partner is going to win the trick)”

“Covering an honor with an honor,” sounds simple but it is quite a complex subject. Let’s look at some declarer issues before we look at defensive problems.


                         K94

 Q lead

                        765 


At a suit contract, you generally are going to assume that your opponents are not underleading the Ace. Try and duck twice and hope that RHO has singleton or doubleton Ace.


                        K94

 Q lead

                       1065


 Now, you are in better shape. At a suit contract you want to avoid a ruff so you need to decide which is more likely: If RHO has Ax you need to duck to avoid the ruff. If LHO has QJ doubleton you need to cover to avoid the immediate ruff.


                         K84 

Q lead

                        1065


Now you want to duck to “freeze” the suit. Neither side can play the suit without setting up a trick for the other side.


As you can see, declarer has a pretty clear idea when to cover an honor with an honor, although he might have to guess to avoid a ruff. Defenders have a much harder problem.


                        Q84

                                                 K75


 This is the basic idea when we cover the Queen with the King. We are hoping to promote a winner in partner’s hand.


                           Q84

          T65                                 K72

                         AJ93


Here we need to cover to promote partner’s ten, if we don’t cover declarer will take 4 tricks.

 There are lots of times as defender we do not want to cover. The most common is when dummy has two touching cards. In general the rule is to cover the second lead of touching cards.

                      QJ94

T6                                            K72

                     A853


 If we cover the Queen, declare will take 4 tricks, if we play low he has to decide if we have the doubleton king or does partner have the doubleton ten. If the layout is:


                   QJ94

T62                                          K7

                  A853


We need to duck some of the time to give declarer a chance to go wrong.


                  QJ94           

762                                          KT

                A853


We have to cover here to give declarer a chance to go wrong.


When the suit in question is the trump suit, be very careful about covering. Your partner needs enough length in the suit in order to be able to promote a card.


                J943

                                        QT5


After the opponents bid 1♠ – 2♠ – 4♠, declarer wins the opening lead in dummy and leads the ♠ J, partner has at most one spade, do not cover. The layout may be.


                J943

                                  QT5

               AK8762

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