Making a plan


Introduction


We will first discuss various topics regarding the playing phase of bridge (we will deal with bidding later).


After the opponents lead and dummy comes down, DO NOT PLAY A SINGLE TRICK!


First make your plan and decide what you should do. You need to visualize how the play might proceed and what troubles you might face to figure out how to resolve any potential issues.


Only after that should you call for a card from dummy. Oftentimes, the correct card to play from the dummy depends on the rest of the hand, so you want to first analyze everything before making any decision to avoid making a mistake on the first card.


Counting Winners (Notrump)


When declaring a notrump contract, we count the number of sure winners!


A sure winner is a trick that can be taken IMMEDIATELY. Thus, an Ace is one sure trick. An Ace and a King in the same suit are 2 sure tricks. A suit with the K, Q, and J has zero immediate tricks, since the opponents can win the Ace.


If the number of sure tricks is less than that required for the contract to make, you have some work to do!


Examples:


1.

How many sure tricks can these hands take?

Dummy: ♠A52 ♥K92 ♦K53 ♣A942

Declarer: ♠K84 ♥QJ3 ♦AQ2 ♣KT65


Answer: There are 2 sure spade tricks, 0 sure heart tricks, 3 sure diamond tricks, and 2 sure club tricks



2.

How many sure tricks can these hands take?

Dummy: ♠AJT82 ♥AQ ♦98742 ♣T

Declarer: ♠KQ765 ♥KJ ♦KJT5 ♣AQ


Answer: There are 5 sure spade tricks, 2 sure heart tricks, 0 sure diamond tricks, and 1 sure club tricks. In total, we have 5+2+0+1=8 sure winners.



Counting Losers (Trump)


In Notrump contract, we count our winners. However, in trump contracts, we want to count losers.


To accurately count losers, you want to count losers from the master hand. The master hand is the hand with the longer trumps (or either hand if both hands have the same number of trumps).


A loser is a small card in the long trump hand (master hand) that is not covered by partner’s high cards.


This is best illustrated by examples.


Examples:

1.

Contract: 4♠

Dummy: ♠Qxx ♥854 ♦AQxxx ♣QJ

Declarer: ♠AKJTxx ♥A3 ♦42 ♣765


Answer:


First, we know that declarer is the master hand because it has the longer spade suit. Thus, we consider the losers in the declarer’s hand.


In the spade suit, we have zero losers.


In the heart suit, we have one loser (♥3). The ♥854 in dummy is not considered losers, because we do not consider the small cards from the non-master hand.


In the diamond suit, we have only one loser. The master hand has 2 small cards, but one of them is covered by the ♦A.


In the club suit, we have 3 club losers. The opponent’s ♣AK will beat our ♣QJ. In total, we have 0+1+1+3=5 losers.


2.

Contract: ♠

Dummy: ♠xxx ♥QJT ♦QJx ♣KQxxx

Declarer: ♠KQxxxx ♥xxx ♦xxx ♣x


Answer:


In the spade suit, we have one certain loser to the ♠A. If the suit splits 2-2, we will have no other loser. However, if the suit splits instead 3-1, we will have an additional spade loser. So to prepare for the worst case scenario, we will assume we have 2 spade losers.


In the heart suit, we will lose only to the ♥AK for a total of 2 losers.


In the diamond suit, we will certainly lose to the ♦AK. We might lose a third diamond, so we consider this as 3 losers.


In the club suit, we have two losers unless we can finesse the J or K.


In total, we have 2+2+3+2=9 losers.


Conclusion:

If you do not have enough sure winners for your notrump contract or you have too many losers for your trump contract, that you must employ some trick-taking techniques to make your contract, which we will cover in the upcoming articles:


NoTrump Trick-taking techniques


Trump Trick-taking Techniques


Practice Quiz

https://forms.gle/kFGCB7awTUXx8hby5


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