On defense, "holding up" is the refrainment from taking a winner, in order to disrupt declarer's communications. Note: it's also possible to execute a hold-up play as declarer.


Examples

The classic example of a defensive hold-up play looks something like this:

Dummy
Q82
J43
West93East
T94KQJT9AJ5
QT68752
QJT5Declarer8762
A76SK76384
HAK9
DAK4
C532


Declarer is playing 3NT, and West leads the DQ. Declarer wins the DA in hand and leads a low club toward dummy. If West takes his CA immediately, then declarer can score four club tricks in dummy. However, if West holds up his ace for two rounds, then declarer can only score two club tricks.

How does West know when to take his ace? He should be watching for a count signal by East in clubs.


A hold-up play can also occur when declarer attempts a finesse. We change the hands slightly to arrive at the following layout:

Dummy
Q82
J43
West93East
T94AQJT9AJ5
QT68752
QJT5Declarer876
762SK763K84
HAK9
DAK42
C53


Again the contract is 3NT and West leads the DQ. Declarer wins this in hand and tracks a low club toward dummy. West should follow with the C2, a count signal indicating an odd number of clubs.

When declarer finesses, East holds up the CK. This entices declarer to lead a heart back to his hand and try a second finesse. Now East takes his king, thus limiting declarer to only one club trick.

See also

  • Count Signals
    Defensive signals for showing the number of cards held in a given suit.

  • Hold-up Play as Declarer
    Declarer's intentional refusal to win a trick, in an effort to disrupt the defense's communication.

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