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November 13, 1999
Short Hand vs Long Hand and Accept What You Know to be True
This brief is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in Issue #2 (Sep/Oct 1994) of The Bridge Companion.
Short Hand vs Long Hand
The value of the trump suit stems from the fact that it allows more ways to develop tricks. All the ways that are available in the no trump contract are also available in the trump contract. In addition, however, there are several more methods. One of those is trumping losers. Consider a hand where you are sitting South:
Assume for a minute that you are in 6NT. Looks like you are going down as you have only
11 tricks without any hope for more (1 spade, 5 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 3 clubs). In a 6 contract,
however, you can make an additional trick by trumping one of your two spade losers in the
dummy. You will have to first surrender a spade trick (this should be the only trick you
lose) and then trump one in the dummy. Many beginners thinks that trumping a diamond in
the South hand (cashing the A, then the K, and then trumping a diamond) will produce
that extra trick, but it does not. Why not?
The reason is that you have already counted the 5 heart tricks in the South hand. Trumping a diamond does win a trick and it does get you to the South hand, but it does not develop an EXTRA trick (that is, a trick you did not have before).
To develop an EXTRA trick you must trump in the SHORT HAND as opposed to the LONG HAND. The short hand is the hand with the fewest number of trump. In the example hand, trumping a spade produces an extra trick because we are trumping in the short hand.
The other consideration to keep in mind when trumping a loser in the short hand (usually the dummy) is that you may be able to pull the missing trumps before trumping your loser or, you may have to trump your loser first, before pulling the opponent's little trumps. The key questions are:
The watch word is to pull trump (or as many as you can afford) before trumping losers
in the dummy, if you can.
Look at the following hands. Try to answer the questions and determine if you can gain an extra trick by trumping a loser. Should you pull trump first?
Opening lead: J
The opponents try two rounds of diamonds and you trump the second. How many tricks can you gain? Should you pull trump first?
Opening lead: K
The opponents lead four rounds of clubs (A, K, Q, then the 10). Your trump the fourth while RHO discards a diamond. How many tricks can you gain? Should you pull trump first?
Opening lead: 7
How many tricks can you gain? Should you pull trump first?
(1) You can make your contract if the spade suit splits as expected (3-2) and if you trump your heart losers in the dummy. You have seven losers (1 spade, 3 hearts, 1 diamond, and 2 clubs). Heart losers can be trumped in the dummy (two or three extra tricks depending on the heart division). You cannot afford to pull even one round of trump before trumping. You may need the trump ace as an entry to enable you to trump a second heart!
(2) On this hand you have six losers (0 spades, 2 hearts, 1 diamond, and 3 clubs). Once again you can trump both heart losers in the dummy (two extra tricks). In this case you can afford to pull two rounds of trump first. If both opponents follow to both rounds then all of the outstanding trumps are gone and you can safely trump hearts. If the suit breaks 3-1 you must leave the 1 trump outstanding until after you have trumped both hearts.
(3) Be glad no one led a trump! To be able to trump a heart (one extra trick) you must first surrender the lead in hearts. You cannot afford even a single round of trumps before doing so or the opponents will lead a second round of trumps upon gaining the lead, and you will have no more spades with which to trump hearts!
Accept What You Know to be True
Opening lead is the 2, East follows with the 7. South has a remarkeable hand after a
takeout double by partner. Norths double may be a bit light, but can you make the
It is clear from the bidding that West has all three missing kings. One hope might be that West holds the doubleton K. Cash the A while discarding a small diamond. Trump both the Q and J of hearts in the South hand and then play the A and a small diamond. West, if she started with Kx, will be forced to win. Any card West exits will give South an additional winner (West has no spades and no diamonds). West will have to exit with either a club (into the AQ) or with a heart (and give South the ability to trump in the North and discard the Q).
As good as any approach you say?
There is a better way! A successful line if West has either two or THREE diamonds!
Win the opening lead in the North hand with the K. Cash the A and discard a small diamond. Lead the Q and discard another small diamond. West will win this trick but you will have established the J as a winner. West has no more trumps and cannot lead either a club or a diamond so will have to return a heart.
Win the J and discard the Q. Play a diamond to the A. Now use the three trumps as dummy entries to trump diamonds twice and to return to the established 9. You will discard the Q on the 9.
Your twelve tricks are 7 spades, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 1 club.
Use the information that you know to be true. In this example West must hold all three kings, so any finesse is a losing line.
Work to maximize your chances.