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Play, Defence even Bid for Newer Players

How many losers?

Many…well just about all…players new to the game breathe a sigh of relief when they become dummy. The bidding is over. Partner should look and sound happy when you turn your cards over..and you can relax for a minute or three.

relaxing as dummy.png

Dummy.... though maybe keep

your feet on the floor, please.

Not so, though, when you are declarer. No relaxing and you have to put into play all those rules you have learnt about playing a contract. The problem is to identify which ones applied to the particular hand.

Maybe the declarer applied the wrong rule this time because they failed to make their 4Heart-small contract. Let’s look at the four hands:

West Deals
None Vul
J 10 9 6
Q 8 6
K 10 6 5
6 4
A Q 2
K 9 7 5 2
A Q 8 4
W   E
K 8 7
A 4 3
J 2
Q 10 8 7 5
5 4 3
J 10
9 7 3
A K J 9 3
West North East South
1  Pass 2  Pass
2  Pass 3  Pass
4  All pass    


East’s 3Heart-small bid was invitational to game. West had a poor trump suit but a well above minimum point count and so accepted the invitation.

The Actual Play

North led a top of sequence Spade-smallJ. Declarer won in hand and decided to play two top trumps finishing in dummy. Next came the Diamond-smallJ which lost to North’s king. North did well for the defence by cashing their Heart-smallQ before exiting a second spade. West had already lost a trump and a diamond and found they had still to lose a second diamond and a club trick to finish one down. Shame as that little box on the hand record said that 10 tricks could be made in hearts. What did West do wrong?

Declarer's Error

The first mistake and really the only one was that West did not make a plan, did not examine their hand, count the potential losers and see what could be done to reduce that number to at least an acceptable level that the contract would be made. West had no spade losers, one certain trump loser (hopefully no more), the possibility of two diamond losers and one club loser.

Four losers= down one! Nothing could be done about the trump or club losers but what about the diamond situation? Even if the finesse worked, there could still be two losers. Yet, the third round of diamonds could be ruffed in dummy.

Thus, do not draw trumps straightaway  if declarer needs to ruff losers in the short trump hand (normally dummy).

The Right line

So, let’s see what should have happened. Win the spade lead in dummy and play Diamond-smallJ. This loses to the king. North continues with a second spade. Declarer wins in hand and plays Diamond-smallA and Diamond-small8 (not that for after the trumps are drawn.). If all goes according to plan, you ruff that card in dummy and only then start playing trumps.

Play two top hearts and then cash your spade and diamond winners. You will find you have only one diamond loser and will thus have made your contract.

If you have four real or potential losers and are playing 4 of a major, you must plan to eliminate at least one of those losers…and that may well mean that trumps cannot be drawn straightaway.

Stop before you play to trick 1 and make some kind of plan. Counting potential losers would have enabled our West to make their contract. A little planning before trick one goes a long way as  declarer, or even as a defender too.  

Richard Solomon


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