Source: BBO By Melih Ozdil It is an advantage to choose a suit with 8 or more cards as trump. However, trump play is not as easy as many think. There are rules that should be known and applied very carefully. Before starting the play, declarer has to
• count the losers
• look for ways of getting rid of these losers.

#### Evaluation of Honors and Spots in a Trump Suit

(A-K -Q -J -T -9 -8 -7) are honors and spots with different values. However, when these honors and spots are shared by two opposite hands, they are treated as equal.
 Declarer’s hand Dummy AKQ3 JT92 AK52 QJ43 KQ54 JT32
The honor qualities of the holdings above are equal.
 Declarer’s hand Dummy AK42 QJT3 AKJ4 QT98 AKQ2 JT98
The honor quality of the second hand above (dummy) is better than the first in this example.

#### COUNTING LOSERS

Losers are counted from the point of view of only one of the hands. By assuming that the direct winners are in this Master Hand, then all cards that are not direct winners must be counted as losers without considering shortnesses. Even the small cards in (AKQ4) or (AKQ63) holdings must be counted as losers. In order to make a good plan, it is essential to choose the Master Hand within which one counts losers. The trump holding is given priority in the making of this decision.

#### With (5-3), (6-3) or (5-4) trumps

The hand with longer trumps should be chosen as the Master Hand. There is no rule that the losers should be counted from the declarer’s hand. The correct rule is to count them from the hand with longer trumps.

#### With (4-4) trumps

In order to choose the Master Hand, one must consider the length of side suits, trump quality, and entries.
• When there is no side 5-card suit
• Choosing the Master Hand when the holdings are symmetrical:
• The hand with fewer losers after counting from both sides
• If the number of losers is equal: The hand with the stronger trumps
• If trump quality is equal: The hand with more entries
• Choosing the Master Hand when the holdings are not symmetrical:
• The hand with fewer losers or the hand that contains losers easier to get rid of
• If the number of losers is equal, there is no transportation problem and trump quality is approximately equal: The hand with a longer side-suit that can be ruffed more and faster
• If opponents force you to ruff at the beginning and your trumps are shortened in one side, then the hand with the longer trumps becomes the master hand. After this, you continue ruffing from the shorter trump side. As a result you won’t be shortened at both sides and lose trump control
• When there is a 5-card side suit:
• If the number of losers is equal:
• If there is no entry problem: The hand with the 5-card side suit
• If there is an entry problem: The other hand
• If the hand with the 5-card suit has more losers:
• The hand with no 5-card side suit may be chosen as the Master Hand if it has fewer losers than the hand with a 5-card side suit and the prospect of ruffing losers does not seem to be a problem. Even if such a decision would result in only a small chance of making the contract, that is enough of a reason to choose that hand as the Master Hand in the case that there is no chance to make the contract if other is chosen.
• When both sides have 5-card side suits:
• If the side suits have same quality and length:
• The hand with better trumps
• If there is no entry problem:
• The hand with longer side suit
• A hand with a side suit that can be established by making the opponents play the honors should be chosen over a hand with a side suit that can be established with ruffs.
ENTRIES
There is a need for entries in order to ruff, draw trumps, and establish suits. After the lead, honors in all suits should be played carefully in order to preserve entriesin the main hand, or the hand with a side suit to establish.
PLANNING THE PLAY
“How can I get rid of my losers?” The act of answering this question while considering ways to ensure transportation between declarer’s hand and dummy is what is known as the plan of the play. Each loser should be evaluated, for example: “This is a certain loser – there’s nothing I can do to avoid it; this one may be ruffed; this one may be discarded, etc.” If it is impossible to get rid of all losers, a plan should be made for those losers where there is a possibly to get rid of them, rather than wasting time on losers that cannot be avoided.
Getting Rid of Losers
In addition to finessing, there are various ways of getting rid of losers. The most common ones are:
• Ruffing
• Discarding on honors or a long suit in the other hand
• Establishing a long suit
RUFFING
Ruffing is the most natural technique in trump contracts. Even a beginner may use the ruffing technique very easily. Most of the time the trumps in dummy are used to ruff the losers in declarer’s hand. As long as declarer has longer trumps, this makes complete sense since ruffing from the Master Hand (the hand with longer trumps) will not help to get rid of losers. A player who has support in his Partner’s suit should reevaluate his hand by adding fit points for his shortnesses (void, singleton, doubleton) based on the prospects of ruffing. Declarer should use these shortnesses effectively during his play. Although ruffing seems easy, a good analysis is required to prevent problems and to take the correct actions. The main principles are:
• The possible ruffs and the overall plan must be re-checked.
• Timing is essential since you need to ruff before trumps are gone.
• Entry management is important, therefore transportation must be planned.
• Small trumps should be used to ruff, big trumps should be used to get the trumps out.
It is easy to see when to ruff if there is a shortness in the hand with the shorter trumps and the Master Hand is long in the suit. However, ruffing a suit with 3 cards in the shorter trump side is not easy to see and the application is very difficult.
Ruffing Technique
You could be tempted to plan to keep a number of trumps in the ruffing hand equal to the number of losers to be ruffed. However, this idea does not give the expected result. Ruffing should not be taken as an easy aspect of the play. You may need extra trumps if the defense has a chance to play trumps while you are preparing for the ruff, or if you need to lose a trick to create transportation between hands. Therefore, you need to calculate the number of trumps needed if you plan on ruffing. Calculate:
• the number of losers to be ruffed (n),
• the number of tricks to be lost while you prepare the ruff (y),
• the number of tricks to be lost in order to create transportation between the two hands (z).
Then (n+y+z) is the necessary number of trumps. A possible bad trump split and the opponents’ possible trump defense should be taken into consideration as well. Without considering these, a cold contract may go down after drawing a few rounds of trumps. So always ask yourself these questions:
• Is the best line of play to ruff?
• Can I ruff my losers?
• Can defense prevent this?
• Is there anything I might be doing wrong, that would prevent my plan from working?
• How many losers do I need to ruff?
• Do I have enough chances to do that?
• Can opponents overruff? Do I have any ways to prevent this?
• How I can organize the transportation? What should I play after I ruff?
A player who has answered the questions above can start ruffing directly or indirectly. However, he has to prepare ruffs first.
Preparing for the Ruff
The suit to be ruffed must have different lengths in the opposite hands. In order to ruff a suit which is long in the Master Hand and short in the other hand, the shortness must be played off (Example, if you have Axxx on xx, you must give a trick before you can start ruffing). This is called preparing for the ruff.
TRUMP CONTROL
The timing and the order of the play of the trumps are very important in trump contracts. You should plan safety play that takes ruffing, transportation, the defense’s possible trump switch and a bad trump split into consideration. Playing trumps unnecessarily and ending up with no trumps (and no ruffs) after the defense played trumps is not good. It is also bad when the defense overruffs with a trump that is not a natural winner. The ideal card play technique is to leave a trump winner with the opponents and start ruffing when trumps are (4-4) and not solid. In this plan, it is a big mistake to allow the defense to cash its winner trump and collect two of the declarer’s trumps. In order to prevent this, ruffs and entries should be prepared carefully before playing trumps. These kind of plays should be planned after counting all losers except those in the trump suit, while taking potential bad trump splits into consideration, if possible, or by assuming that trumps will split if that would be our only chance to make the contract. This sensitive balance of planning is called trump control.