The magic of defense

An interview with Barbara Seagram

by Dar Webb of the St. Petersburg Bridge Club

Flat Sparkle Star Illustration

Dar: You’ve said that this may be your favorite book ever. Why is that?

Barbara: Defense is absolutely the most exciting part of the game. When you and partner are communicating effectively, there is magic in the air! Great chemistry develops and it is very satisfying. This book is filled with hands that I have used throughout my 47-year bridge-teaching career. There are hands from Carolyn Sydnor, Eddie Kantar and myself. The hands are also about declarer play and bidding but primarily about defense. This book will take all readers (newer and also intermediate) to the next level.

Dar: I think this book is going to be the last word on the subjects it covers for all club players. I plan to reread it every six months whether I need to or not! What level player do you think the book will benefit the most?

Barbara: This book will take all readers (newer and also intermediate) to the next level. Part of it will be a review for some but mostly a huge eye-opener for most people.

Dar: No bridge book, however brilliant, is completely useful unless both partners embrace it. How can partners use The Magic of Defense best?

Barbara: They can work through the concepts in the book and do the quizzes together, discussing all the way. The book is easy to understand and has gazillions of examples. Partnerships MUST be on the same page and thus on the same wavelength. It is definitely not good if one person is signaling away and the other person is not even watching! Focus, focus, focus!

Dar: What do you think is the biggest defense mistake developing players make?

Barbara: Newer players forget to consider the auction. They fail to consider how many points partner is marked with. They must remember to stop before ever making an opening lead and register partner’s expected number of points in their head. For example:

You have:

RHO has opened 1NT and LHO has bid 3NT. We expect them to have 26 HCP (approximately) between them. If you have the hand above with 14 HCP, then how many points does your partner have??? We must use the RULE OF 40! There are only 40 HCP in the deck! 26 + 14 = 40. So how many points does partner have? Zero is the correct answer. So if you lead either the ♠5 of the 3, you are automatically giving declarer an extra trick (called giving a free finesse). Don’t do this! Lead a Club. This is a nice passive defense which gives nothing away. Declarer will take all the finesses and they will lose to you. Lead another Club, helping them not at all.

♠ A Q 7 5

K J 8 3


♣ 9 5 2

If the auction had gone 1NT by RHO Pass Pass Pass, then you could have led your fourth-best ♠ or your fourth-best because then you would have had a right to expect partner to NOT be a pointless partner.

Dar: I love suit preference signals, but maybe I’m just odd. When I try to explain a suit preference signal to newer players, their eyes glaze over. Should learning this signal be on a new player agenda.

Barbara: You are most definitely NOT odd, Dar!! It is a super-fun and very important signal. It is likely not in Beginners 101 but shortly after, for sure.

When giving partner a ruff, the card you lead at that moment tells partner what suit to lead back so you can now give her ANOTHER ruff which is very often the setting trick. There are heaps of practice hands for this signal in the book so I won’t give the whole show away now!

THIS EASY GUIDE to defense, both fun and memorable, will take a newer player quickly up to an intermediate skill level, if not beyond, with all of the tools needed to progress even further. The mix of ideas presented in the chapters and then reinforced with such a perfect selection of hands, with gentle repetition of the most important factors, will be a tremendous learning aid for the ambitious player.


BARBARA SEAGRAM hails from Barbados, West Indies and now teaches bridge in Toronto, Canada, with her husband, Alex Kornel. She owns and runs a School of Bridge in Toronto and teaches tens of thousands of students a year at all levels. Barbara is the recipient of multiple awards, is a best-selling author, and is a dedicated and tireless promoter of bridge all over the world. More than anything, Barbara loves to play bridge and would do so morning, noon, and night, given a chance, with her favorite partner, Alex.