Source: Mr. Bridge By A. Kambites

How to Stay in Control

THE main purpose of having a trump suit is to keep control of the hand. In most hands you can draw the enemy trumps, while leaving yourself with trumps. Then you can cash your side suit winners without fear of them cuffing, but your trumps can interrupt the flow of their winners. Sometimes a bad trump break means that you lose ‘trump control’. You should always be aware of this danger if your trump fit is eight cards or fewer and you have a weak side suit. In the first hand you are in 4, North leading two top hearts.

A K Q J 10
8 7 6 4
K 8 5
9 8 7
J 8
A K 5 3
Q J 10 9

Suppose you trump and lead out two top spades, South showing out on the second round. You clearly cannot complete drawing trumps, otherwise your opponents will defeat you with heart tricks when they take the A, so you leave a trump in dummy and turn your attention to clubs. South allows the first club to win and takes his A on the second round, giving North a club ruff. You still have a diamond trick to lose so that adds up to one down. You could have avoided this by considering the consequences of a 4-1 trump break before trumping the second heart. H instead you had discarded a losing diamond you could have coped with a third heart by ruffing in dummy. If as is likely, North switches suit you can safely draw trumps and drive out the A.

In the next hand you are in 4 and the defenders start with three top clubs. Can you cope with a 4-1 trump break?

A Q 9 6
A K Q 9 6
A 2
10 7
8 7
10 8 3
K Q J 10 5
8 6 5

If trumps break 3-2 you have 11 easy tricks, but if your opponents tum up with a trump trick that does not necessarily mean you have 10 tricks. First, you cannot drive out the enemy trump winner before running diamonds because they can continue clubs. Second, you cannot ignore your trump loser because they will trump diamonds at a moment inconvenient to you, leaving you with spade losers. The solution is to trump the third club, cash the A and duck a trump while you still have a trump in dummy to cope with a club continuation. In the next hand you are in 6 , North leading the K. There are 13 easy tricks if hearts break 3-2, but you should not allow your frustration at mlssing the good grand slam to cloud your judgement and jeopardise your small slam. Can you cope with a
4-1 trump break?

8 5 4 3
A K Q 2
A K 8
7 6

7 6 4 3
7 5 4
A K Q J 10 8

Suppose you trump the spade lead and cash the A K, discovering South started with J 10 9 5. You ntight trump a spade and try running clubs, but it will come as no surprise to you if South ruffs and leads the last trump, leaving you with several losers in your hand and no way of reaching dummy’s clubs. The correct safety play is to cash the A at trick two and then duck a trump, leaving you in control if trumps break 4-1.

Keeping trump control is so important that it is often worth sacrificing a trick in its cause. In the 6contract below you ruff the A lead, cash the KQ North showing out. What next?

A 7 6 4 3

K Q J 10 9 8
8 7
Q 8 7 4 3
A K Q 2

With a 3-2 trump break you would have easily made 13 tricks, but now you have significant entry problems to your hand. You should unblock dummy’s A and overtake your J with your A, continuing diamonds. South is welcome to trump in whenever he pleases. You have retained control of the trump suit and can continue cashing your diamonds.

In the next hand you have reached the excellent contract of 7. You trump the heart lead and cash the A prior to claiming your contract, but South shows out. North now has more trumps than you have. Can you see a way home?

A K Q J 10

A K Q J 10
K Q 10
9 8 7
10 7 4 3
8 7
A 9 8 5

All four hands are shown in the diagram below.

6 5 4 3 2
A K 9 8 2
6 4
A K Q J 10

A K Q J 10
K Q 10
9 8 7
10 7 4 3
8 7
A 9 8 5

Q J 6 5
9 5 3 2
J 7 4 3 2

Your intention is to run your diamonds through North. If he has a singleton or void diamond he will always prevail, but suppose he ruffs the third diamond? You will overruff in dummy, draw trumps and claim.

What if North refuses to ruff any of your diamonds? You can discard all of dummy’s clubs except one and end with a cross ruff, but there is a danger. Suppose North discards clubs on the run of your diamonds. He will then be able to ruff when you cash the A.

To cope with this you must cash just one round of clubs before touching diamonds. If you cannot see this, try playing the cards through yourself, first cashing the A at trick three and second not cashing the A at trick three.

Early in your bridge playing days you are taught that ruffing a loser in the short trump hand often results in an extra trick, but ruffmg losers in the long hand for no reason usually results in causing you to lose control of the trump suit. The exception is seen in the hand below. You are in the precarious contract of 2 and the lead is the K Can you see your way to eight tricks?

A K 5 4 3
7 4 3
9 7 6 2
7 6
A 8 6 5
A K 8 6
8 5 3

You will get nowhere by drawing trumps and cashing winners. Instead you must hope to scramble eight tricks, leaving your opponents to take the last five . You need the enemy hearts to break 4-4.

Ruff a heart at trick two, cash the A K, cross to dummy with the A and ruff another heart. Finally re-enter dummy with the K and trump a third heart. You have eight tricks. Your opponents are left with trump tricks and tricks in the minor suits. In effect they will be trumping each other’s winners in the last five tricks.

Scrambling winners in this fashion is often correct when playing in a part score, but rarely gives you enough tricks if you are declaring a contract at a higher level.