5th WORLD JUNIOR CAMP Vargesztes, Hungary. July 2003

Klaus Reps
Klaus Reps

After you have completed the bidding the next difficult part is waiting. As declarer you have to plan the play. This is a very important part, because this plan is the basis for all decisions you make during the play. For now we will have a look at suit contracts, because there are far less exceptions to the rules than in NT contracts.

There are three steps for the playing plan in a suit contract:

1. How many losers do I have ?

2. How can I avoid losers ?

3. In which order do I have to play the suits ?

1. How many losers do I have?

First you count the number of tricks you will have to lose….

– You always count the losers by looking at one certain hand. Let/s call this hand the “main hand”. This is the hand with MORE trumps. If you play in a fit of the same trump length in both hands the main hand is the hand with the BETTER trumps.

– Now you look at each suit and count how many losers in the main hand are covered by honours in the other hand. Important:A loser can only be covered by an honour. If it is covered by a shortness, we still count it as a loser.

e.g. main hand: A x other hand: K x x = 0 losers

main hand: A x x other hand: K x = 1 loser

– When you have possible losers that depend on a finesse, you assume that the finesse will fail.

e.g. x x x A Q 10 = 2 losers

– When you have possible losers that depend on a certain distribution you assume the normal distribution.

Rule for normal distribution: When we have an even number of cards, opponents have an odd number of cards. The normal distribution is balanced between both opponents.When we have an odd number of cards, opponents have an even number of cards. In this case there are two normal distributions:The balanced way, or the alternative, where one opponents has two cards more than the other one.

We have They have  normal distribution
10 cards 3 cards 2-1
9 cards 4 cards 2-2 or 3-1
8 cards 5 cards 3-2
7 cards 6 cards 3-3 or 4-2
6 cards 7 cards 4-3…etc

Let/s have a look at an example hand.We play 6Spade Suit and opponents lead club suitJ.

Spade Suit A K J x x
Heart Suit A Q x
Diamond Suit x x x
club suit Q x
Spade Suit x x x
Heart Suit x x
Diamond Suit A K x x
club suit A K x x

The main hand is the left hand, because it has MORE trumps than the other hand.

Spade: One loser to the Spade SuitQ, but no further loser because we assume a 3-2 distribution

Heart: Two losers. We might lose Heart SuitQ to the king and the other small heart is not covered by an honour in the other hand.

Diamond: Two of the three small diamonds are covered, the third one is a loser

Clubs: All clubs in the main hand are covered, no loser in clubs.

— Four losers (one spade, two hearts, one diamond)

2. How can I avoid losers ?

There are three basic playing techniques to avoid losers:

Ruffing;  Finessing; Discarding

We will have a closer look at each of these techniques later. For now a brief summary for each technique will do.

Ruffing: If you have a shortness opposite the main hand, you can ruff the main hand’s losers in the other hand.

Finessing: You try to make tricks with your lower hon ours hoping that opponents’ honour(s) are well placed for you

Simple Finesse: xx – AQ or xx – Kx

Deep Finesse: xxx – AQ10

Double Finesse: xxx – AJ10

Discarding: Whenever you have a trick in the other hand and cannot follow suit from the main hand you can discard a loser on that trick.

Regarding these three techniques, I suggest that you take another look at each suit and consider the possibilities of reducing your count of losers.

In our 6Spade Suit example we have various possibilities to avoid the four losers we already counted:

Spades: We play a small spade towards the Spade SuitJ and hope the Spade SuitQ is well placed

Hearts: We take the heart finesse of the queen, and subsequently ruff a heart in the other hand after we have played the ace

Diamonds:There is a certain loser – but are there any discards ? Right, we can discard a diamond on the top club.

Clubs: No loser, nothing to avoid.

3. In which order do I have to play the suits ?

This is the most important part. There is a general rule in which order you should play the suits:

Step 1 You ruff all losers that you have to ruff before drawing trumps

Step 2 You draw trumps

Step 3 You play the side suits

Of course there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes you have to play the side suits first, because the communication between your hands is not very good or maybe the opponents have made a threatening lead. Many circumstances may have an influence on the order in which you will play the suits. But this is what you have to do in general: Ruff first, but only if you need to make the ruffs BEFORE drawing trumps, then draw trumps and play the other suits afterwards.

This leaves a question open: How do I know when I have to ruff a loser BEFORE drawing trumps and when is it possible to ruff a loser AFTER drawing trumps ?

This is easy. Just count how many trumps will probably remain in the short-trump hand after drawing trumps.Then count the number of ruffs you have to make. If there are there still enough trumps for your ruffs after drawing trumps, you may ruff your losers later on in the hand. If you draw trumps and the remaining trumps are not sufficient to allow you to take all your ruffs, you will have to consider ruffing before drawing trumps.

Still, there are more rules to obey, which are – not always, but in general – right….

Try to avoid ruffs in the main hand. Never voluntarily ruff a loser from the other hand in your main hand.There are only three reasons why you would ruff in the main hand:

1.The opponents force you to do so

2.You need to come to your hand and there is no line of communication

3.You want to set up a long suit by ruffing.

A ruff in the main hand (the hand with the long or the good trumps) always weakens your hand and sometimes you lose control of the hand. So a ruff in the main hand for any other reason than one of the three above may well not be a good idea.

– Try to avoid blocking your suits. If you cash honours of the same value, then cash the honours in the short hand first and continue with the honours from the long side afterwards.

– Draw ALL the trumps before playing your side suits. Even if it costs you two trumps and opponents only one.

Don/t leave a small trump outside when touching the side suits. The only exception is a high trump: Whenever there is only ONE trump missing and this is a high trump, you should not draw it.

Now, back to the 6Spade Suit example. Here is the plan. Take the club lead in dummy, take the heart finesse, cash the heart ace and spade ace, then ruff the third heart in dummy. Now you play a spade to the jack and cash the remaining trumps. Then you cash your three club winners and discard a diamond on the club suitK. If everything is right, it is conceivable that you will make 7Spade Suit. If something goes wrong you will make less, but the result does not matter. What counts is, that you gave your contract the best possible chance.