Source: One of the most common objectives of declarer is to establish a five-card or longer suit. The suit may be in dummy or declarer’s hand, and the contract may be notrump or with a different suit trumps. This lesson explains some of the techniques to achieve success. The Deep Finesse When trying to establish a long suit in a hand that has few entries, it is often necessary to take a deeper finesse than usual on the first round. The purpose is to lose a trick early (rather than later) to preserve your communication. As a bonus, you might win an unexpected trick.
Consider a deep finesse (usually the 10, nine or eight) when the stronger hand has a doubleton in the suit you wish to establish.
3 NT South
Spade Suit 6 5 3 Heart Suit 4 3 Diamond Suit K Q 9 7 5 Club Suit A 10 4
Spade Suit J 10 9 8 Heart Suit J 7 5 Diamond Suit 10 6 2 Club Suit Q 9 6 Spade Suit K 2 Heart Suit Q 10 9 8 Diamond Suit A J 8 Club Suit J 8 5 2
Lead: Spade SuitJ Spade Suit A Q 7 4 Heart Suit A K 6 2 Diamond Suit 4 3 Club Suit K 7 3
With the spade lead you have six top tricks, and the diamond suit is the only chance for three more. An average player might lead a diamond to the king. No good; East would duck, and declarer would make only one diamond trick. The proper play is to finesse the Diamond Suit9 on the first round, losing to the jack. Regardless of the return, declarer can win in hand and lead a diamond to the king, etc. Note that the deep finesse would also be necessary if West held A-x in diamonds. If West held A-x-x the deep finesse would cost a trick — but just an overtrick — as you would still make the contract. The First Round Duck Sometimes declarer does not have an intermediate card available for a deep finesse, yet he would still like to lose the first round in order to keep communication. That’s easy; just give away the trick. The loser is usually inevitable anyway, so the net result costs nothing.
If a deep finesse is not available, you can achieve the same objective by ducking the first round of the suit.
4Spade Suit South
Spade Suit 8 6 4 Heart Suit K 4 Diamond Suit 5 3 2 Club Suit A 6 5 4 2
Spade Suit J 7 Heart Suit J 10 8 Diamond Suit Q J 10 6 Club Suit Q 10 9 7 Table Spade Suit Q 10 3 Heart Suit Q 9 6 5 3 Diamond Suit 9 8 7 Club Suit K J
Lead: Diamond SuitQ Spade Suit A K 9 5 2 Heart Suit A 7 2 Diamond Suit A K 4 Club Suit 8 3
Assuming a normal 3-2 trump break you can make your contract by ruffing a heart in dummy; but at matchpoint scoring you should not be content with 10 tricks. There is a good chance to establish the club suit to make an overtrick. Win the Diamond SuitA, cash one top trump then duck a club — the key play to preserve the Club Suit A as a useful entry to dummy. It makes no difference but assume East returns a diamond to your king. Cash the second top trump, lead a club to the ace and ruff a club (unless East stupidly ruffs, then you will throw your diamond loser). Continue with a heart to the king and ruff another club to establish the suit. Finally, cash the Heart SuitA, ruff your losing heart, then lead the good club to discard your small diamond whether East ruffs or not. Watch the Spot Cards When trying to establish a suit, pay close attention to intermediate cards in that suit. Tens, nines and eights — occasionally even sevens and lower — may become significant cards, especially if they are in sequence. If you can promote one of these spot cards into a winner, it will simplify your task. At a suit contract the presence of intermediate cards may allow you to take a ruffing finesse against one of the defenders.
Watch the enemy plays. An important card may drop from one defender, thereby increasing the power of your remaining cards.
4 Spade Suit South
Spade Suit A 3 2 Heart Suit 9 5 2 Diamond Suit Q 8 6 5 3 Club Suit K 7
Spade Suit Q J 8 Heart Suit 8 7 4 Diamond Suit 10 9 Club Suit Q 10 8 4 3 Table Spade Suit 10 9 Heart Suit Q J 10 Diamond Suit A J 7 4 2 Club Suit J 9 2
Lead: Diamond Suit10 Spade Suit K 7 6 5 4 Heart Suit A K 6 3 Diamond Suit K Club Suit A 6 5
East wins the Diamond SuitA and shifts to a heart to your king. Your plan is to establish the long diamond. Draw two rounds of trumps ending in dummy and cash the Diamond SuitQ to discard a heart. Normally you would need a 4-3 diamond break to succeed, but the fall of West’s nine is revealing — it logically must be a doubleton which leaves East with J-7-4. The ranks of the spot cards in dummy now come into play. Lead the Diamond Suit8 — better than the five or six because you know from West’s 10 lead that East has the jack — which East covers and you ruff. West can overruff now, later or never as he wants; it makes no difference in the way you will play. You will later lead the Diamond Suit6 to force East to cover again. This will establish the Diamond Suit5 on which you will throw your last low heart. Trump Entries The trump suit often provides a flexible means of communication from hand to hand. By using your honors and spot cards wisely you can usually manage an additional entry where it is needed most. A common error by many players is to draw trumps too soon, thereby destroying their transportation. In most cases it is necessary to postpone drawing trumps
Draw trumps immediately only if you see a clear path to set up your side suit afterwards. When in doubt, do not draw trumps.
4Spade Suit South
Spade Suit K 10 3 Heart Suit Q J 8 5 4 Diamond Suit Q J Club Suit J 9 3
Spade Suit 6 5 Heart Suit 10 9 2 Diamond Suit A 9 8 4 Club Suit Q 8 7 5 Spade Suit 4 Heart Suit A K 7 6 3 Diamond Suit 7 6 5 3 Club Suit A K 10
Lead: Heart Suit10 Spade Suit A Q J 9 8 7 2 Heart SuitDiamond Suit K 10 2 Club Suit 6 4 2
West North East 1Heart Suit South 4Spade Suit
With the heart lead you have a fighting chance, but exact play is required. Cover the Heart Suit10 with dummy’s jack; East plays the king and you ruff — with the seven. Save that deuce! Lead the Spade Suit8 to dummy’s 10, then lead the Heart SuitQ; East covers again and you ruff with the Spade Suit9. Note that East’s opening heart bid and West’s lead of the 10 suggested the actual heart layout. Lead the Spade SuitJ to dummy’s king and ruff another heart high. West’s nine comes tumbling down as you hoped. Finally, lead the carefully preserved Spade Suit2 to dummy’s three and discard a club on the good Heart Suit8. All that remains is to force out the Diamond SuitA to make your contract. Be sure to see that you would fail if you did not take advantage of the Spade SuitK-10-3 to provide three entries to dummy. Trump Control Using your trumps to establish a side suit may place you in jeopardy of losing trump control. The more ruffing you have to do to establish a suit, the fewer trumps you will have left for the purpose of drawing the enemy trumps. The term “trump control” means that declarer has drawn (or is able to draw) the enemy low trumps so he can enjoy his remaining winners. Do not confuse with “suit control” which is the ability to win the next trick in a specific suit. One way to increase your chance to retain trump control is to confine your ruffing to one hand and keep the trump length in the opposite hand intact.
Avoid ruffing early in both hands unless you intend to play for a crossruff.
4Spade Suit South
Spade Suit A K 3 2 Heart Suit Q 9 7 6 4 Diamond Suit 2 Club Suit 4 3 2
Spade Suit 9 5 Heart Suit A 8 2 Diamond Suit K J 8 6 Club Suit J 9 6 5 Spade Suit 8 6 4 Heart Suit K J 10 5 Diamond Suit Q 10 Club Suit A 10 8 7
Lead: Club Suit5 Spade Suit Q J 10 7 Heart Suit 3 Diamond Suit A 9 7 5 4 3 Club Suit K Q
East wins the Club Suit A and returns a club to your king. You consider the possibility of a crossruff but realize that you must give up a heart, then a trump return would be ruinous. You must establish your long diamond suit, and in doing so you must be careful not to ruff in your own hand. Win the Diamond SuitA and ruff a diamond high — you must save the low spades for transportation. Lead the Spade Suit2 to your queen and ruff another diamond high. Lead the Spade Suit3 to your jack, draw the last trump and give up a diamond. You still have a trump and two good diamonds to make your contract. Conceding a Trick Sometimes your trump holding is not long enough or strong enough to have any hope to establish a suit by ruffing out all of the enemy stoppers. Or it may be that trying to do so will subject you to an enemy overruff or uppercut. To alleviate ruffing requirements it may be wise to concede an early trick. This is similar to the first-round duck (Example 2) although the reason is entirely different.
If your ruffing ability is limited, consider giving up an early trick in the suit you wish to establish.
6Spade Suit South
Spade Suit A K 5 Heart Suit A 9 7 4 3 Diamond Suit 2 Club Suit A K 7 4
Spade Suit J 10 9 Heart Suit K J 6 5 Diamond Suit J 10 8 4 Club Suit 5 2 Table Spade Suit 8 4 Heart Suit Q 10 8 Diamond Suit K Q 6 5 Club Suit J 10 9 8
Lead: Spade SuitJ Spade Suit Q 7 6 3 2 Heart Suit 2 Diamond Suit A 9 7 3 Club Suit Q 6 3
Very few players made 12 tricks on this deal from a 1989 tournament. Declarer has 10 sure tricks with a 3-2 trump break, and one diamond can be ruffed for 11. The 12th trick might come from a 3-3 club break or a 4-3 heart break. Establishing the heart suit is clearly the better chance, but many who tried it were too eager to start ruffing. South’s trumps are not long enough to ruff three hearts and draw the enemy trumps. The best play is to win the Spade Suit A and lead the Heart Suit3 from dummy — give up a heart. Assume a trump return (nothing matters): Win the Spade Suit K; Heart SuitA (discard a diamond); heart ruff; Diamond Suit A; diamond ruff; Club SuitQ; draw the last trump (discard a club); Club SuitK; heart ruff, and dummy is good.

The topics of Examples 4-6 obviously pertain only to suit contracts, however, Examples 1-3 pertain to all contracts.