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October 31, 1999
Plan the Play and Never Give Up

Plan the Play

Plan the Play is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in Issue #10 (Jan/Feb 1996) of The Bridge Companion.

There are 53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 possible bridge deals. You do not have enough time to learn how to play everyone of them. What you do have time to learn is a problem solving PROCESS. A process that you can apply to every bridge hand that you encounter. You must have a PLAN. After the auction is over and while your left hand opponent is considering the opening lead, you should begin the following four step planning process. You should do it on every hand that you play. Continue with the process after dummy is tabled and do NOT play the first card from dummy until you are at the last step.

Step One - Determine your objective. How many tricks do you need in order to make your contract? It is critical that you convert the contract into a number of tricks. Don’t think 3NT. Think 9 tricks. Don’t think 4heart.gif (841 bytes). Think 10 tricks and no more than 3 losers. The contract by itself is too abstract for your mind to focus on, however a number of tricks or a number of losers is more easily grasped. Put your goal in terms with which you can work.

Step Two - Count your winners and losers. It is usually best to count winners at no trump contracts and losers at suit contracts. You know your objective. How many tricks do you have? These are SURE tricks. Tricks that you could cash right now. If you don’t own the ace then you don’t have any SURE tricks in that suit.

Step Three - Identify all the places that offer the possibility of trick development. Do not select any alternative until you have identified all the possibilities. Choices would include the use of promotion, length, finesse, trumping in the dummy, discarding losers, or any combination of these.

Step Four - Play the FIRST card from dummy. You wouldn’t get on an airplane without knowing it’s destination would you? Don’t start playing cards to the hand until you know where you intend to develop your tricks.

No. 1

spade.gif (842 bytes)KJ65
heart.gif (841 bytes)8
diamond.gif (837 bytes)A863
West club.gif (841 bytes)9643 East
spade.gif (842 bytes)??? spade.gif (842 bytes)???
heart.gif (841 bytes)??? heart.gif (841 bytes)???
diamond.gif (837 bytes)??? diamond.gif (837 bytes)???
club.gif (841 bytes)??? South club.gif (841 bytes)???
spade.gif (842 bytes)A10974
heart.gif (841 bytes)AK4
diamond.gif (837 bytes)K75
club.gif (841 bytes)107

Contract - 4spade.gif (842 bytes) by South
Opening lead - club.gif (841 bytes)A

What is your objective? Potential losers? If you can dispose of any losers, which ones? By what method? LHO cashes the club.gif (841 bytes)A, club.gif (841 bytes)K, and then plays the club.gif (841 bytes)Q. You can trump that in hand, but what do you do next? How would you rate your chances of success? Regardless of the result, should you have bid game or settled for a partscore?

No. 2

spade.gif (842 bytes)86
heart.gif (841 bytes)743
diamond.gif (837 bytes)32
West club.gif (841 bytes)AK5432 East
spade.gif (842 bytes)??? spade.gif (842 bytes)???
heart.gif (841 bytes)??? heart.gif (841 bytes)???
diamond.gif (837 bytes)??? diamond.gif (837 bytes)???
club.gif (841 bytes)??? South club.gif (841 bytes)???
spade.gif (842 bytes)KQJ2
heart.gif (841 bytes)AQ2
diamond.gif (837 bytes)KQJ7
club.gif (841 bytes)76

Contract - 3NT by South
Opening lead - diamond.gif (837 bytes)4

What is your objective? How many SURE winners do you have? To the opening lead, RHO plays the diamond.gif (837 bytes)A and you the diamond.gif (837 bytes)7. RHO leads the diamond.gif (837 bytes)8 to trick two. How many SURE winners do you have now? Which suit offers the best alternative for the needed extra tricks? What is your plan? How would you rate your chances of success?

No. 3

spade.gif (842 bytes)K7
heart.gif (841 bytes)Q64
diamond.gif (837 bytes)AKJ10
West club.gif (841 bytes)A1053 East
spade.gif (842 bytes)??? spade.gif (842 bytes)???
heart.gif (841 bytes)??? heart.gif (841 bytes)???
diamond.gif (837 bytes)??? diamond.gif (837 bytes)???
club.gif (841 bytes)??? South club.gif (841 bytes)???
spade.gif (842 bytes)AQ6
heart.gif (841 bytes)AK5
diamond.gif (837 bytes)5432
club.gif (841 bytes)KQ6

Contract - 6NT by South
Opening lead - heart.gif (841 bytes)J

What is your objective? How many SURE winners do you have? Which suits offer the potential for an extra trick? What is the best play for an extra diamond trick? What is the best play for an extra club trick? Can you combine your chances in both clubs and diamonds? What is your plan? How would you rate your chances of success?

The answers:

No. 1 - Your objective is 10 tricks and you can afford as many as 3 losers. When counting losers you should do it with respect to one hand (usually declarer). Declarer has 2 club losers, one diamond loser, one heart loser, and one potential spade loser. That is 2 losers too many. Looks as though the defenders will take the clubs right away. Nothing can be done about the diamond loser. The heart loser can be trumped in the dummy. The spade loser might be disposed of by means of length (the drop) or a successful finesse. After trumping the third round of clubs, cash the heart.gif (841 bytes)A and trump the heart loser in dummy. Now cash the spade.gif (842 bytes)K and lead another spade. You must choose whether to play the spade.gif (842 bytes)A or take a finesse. Look back at the feature article in Issue #10 to help you decide. It is very close to a toss up.

No. 2 - Your objective is 9 tricks and you have 3 sure winners. After the plays to the first two tricks your sure winner count rises to 6. Possibilities for extra tricks are available in every other suit. Two extra tricks in spades by promotion, one in hearts by a finesse, and three in clubs by length. A 3-2 division in clubs will yield success. That is the best option. The secret is to play a low club from both declarers hand and dummy at trick three. Now you have the transportation to the established clubs. All you need is a 3-2 club division, so your chances of success are about 68%.

No. 3 - Your objective is 12 tricks. You have 11 sure winners (3 spades, 3 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 3 clubs). Diamonds and clubs both offer extra potential. Best play for diamonds is to cash one top honor and then finesse. The best play in clubs is to cash two top honors and then (assuming RHO did not show out) to play the third top honor. Notice that an unsuccessful diamond finesse still gives you 12 tricks. A successful diamond finesse will give you 13 tricks! Leave the clubs alone and work on diamonds. Your chances of success will be 100%.


Never Give Up

Here is an interesting hand that I came across:

spade.gif (842 bytes)96432
heart.gif (841 bytes)Q8
diamond.gif (837 bytes)A42
West club.gif (841 bytes)K32 East
spade.gif (842 bytes)Q87 spade.gif (842 bytes)
heart.gif (841 bytes) heart.gif (841 bytes)AKJ97632
diamond.gif (837 bytes)J865 diamond.gif (837 bytes)Q109
club.gif (841 bytes)QJ10976 South club.gif (841 bytes)85
spade.gif (842 bytes)AKJ105
heart.gif (841 bytes)1054
diamond.gif (837 bytes)K73
club.gif (841 bytes)A4


West North East South
Pass Pass 4heart.gif (841 bytes) 4spade.gif (842 bytes)
Pass Pass Pass

Opening lead is the club.gif (841 bytes)Q. South is pretty confident until she starts to pull trump. The bad break in spades seems to uncover a fourth loser. The inexperienced players shrugs her shoulders and accepts down one. The experienced player reviews the known facts before giving up to see if anything can be done to salvage the game. You should make this 4spade.gif (842 bytes) contract at the table without seeing all four hands. Can you make it looking at all four?

Ask yourself. "Why didn’t West lead a heart?"

The answer is he does not have any!

How can you exploit that fact?

Stop pulling trump after one round (after discovering the bad break). Leaving West with spade.gif (842 bytes)Q8.

The example hand is made once East is found with only two clubs. Cash the club.gif (841 bytes)A and club.gif (841 bytes)K and lead the third club from dummy. When East shows out you are home. Discard a small diamond and let West win.

You must keep East off lead at all costs.

West cannot lead clubs without giving you a ruff-sluff and allowing you to rid your self of a heart loser. So West must return a diamond.

You can now keep East off lead in diamonds.

Cash the diamond.gif (837 bytes)K and diamond.gif (837 bytes)A and trump the third diamond in hand. You now have no clubs or diamonds in either hand.

Put West back on lead by playing the spade.gif (842 bytes)K and another spade.

West now has no choice. He must give you a ruff-sluff and allow you to dispose of a heart loser.

You can now give up a heart to East and claim ten tricks losing only one club, one heart, and one spade.

The lesson? Keep asking why and how. Why did West not lead a heart? How can you use that information?

Gary King

�1999 The Bridge Companion. All rights reserved.