A holdup play occurs when declarer purposely refrains from winning a trick in a suit led by the defense. This may be done for strategic purposes.

North
65
K74
WestAQJ87East
KQJT9632842
Q632J98
65SouthK43
JTSA73Q974
HAT5
DT92
CAK85


In this deal, South opens the bidding with 1NT, and West makes an light DONT overcall of 2H that shows both majors. South eventually winds up in 3NT.

West leads the SK. Diamonds must be established to make the contract. Even if the diamond finesse loses, South can count 9 total tricks: 1 spade, 2 hearts, 4 diamonds and 2 clubs.

The contract is guaranteed if spades are 4-4 or the diamond finesse works. However, danger exists if spades are 5-3 and the DK is offside, as in the above layout.

Should South grab the first trick and finesse in diamonds, East will win and return a spade to beat the contract. It would be better for South to hold up the SA twice, just in case the spades split 5-3.

Upon winning the third spade, South can safely finesse in diamonds. East will take the king but will not have a spade left. South can win any return and cash his winners.

Note that it's also possible to execute a hold-up play on defense.

See also

  • Holdup Play on Defense
    A refusal to win a trick on defense, in an effort to disrupt declarer's communication.

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