Article 7A05 Main

Planning the Play

 by Richard Pavlicek

As declarer you should develop the habit of planning the play as soon as the dummy is exposed before you play a single card. I recommend the following thought processes, illustrated by the example below.

South dealsS 9 7 4 2WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH K 31 NT
D 7 5 4Pass2 CPass2 S
C A J 6 2Pass3 SPass4 S
S Q 5TableS J 10 8PassPassPass
H Q 10 8 6H J 7 4 2
D J 10 9 8D K 3
C 9 8 7C K Q 10 4
S A K 6 3
H A 9 5
D A Q 6 2
4 S SouthC 5 3

Count Your Top Tricks

At a suit contract first decide how many trump tricks you are entitled to win assuming a normal trump break. Do not count ruffs.

On this deal you hold eight trumps, and the five missing cards will usually break 3-2. Therefore, you will lose one trump trick; hence you will win three trump tricks.

In all the other suits (or in all suits at notrump) count only the immediately cashable tricks. These are tricks you can win “off the top” assuming no enemy ruff.

On this deal you have two top hearts, two top diamonds (because of the opening lead into your A-Q) and one top club. Adding this to your trump tricks gives you a total of eight top tricks. Therefore, you need two more tricks to make your contract.

Look For Additional Tricks

Examine each suit for ways to obtain additional tricks. These might come from establishing honor cards, long cards or by ruffing.

On this deal you might gain one trick by ruffing a heart, and another by establishing your long diamond (or ruffing it in dummy if it is not good). Another possibility is to try ruff two clubs in your hand.

It is important to understand that tricks are gained by ruffing only when the ruffing hand has equal or fewer trumps than the opposite hand. Consequently, tricks can be gained only by ruffs in one hand.

Analyze the Lead

Consider the opening lead and what it tells you about the suit led. Was it based on the bidding? Is it a long suit? Is it a short suit? Does it show a particular honor holding?

On this deal West’s lead of the D J is probably top of a sequence, though it does not indicate anything about West’s length.

Develop a Plan

Which card will you play from dummy at trick one? Will you use a holdup play? Which side suit will you attack first? How many rounds of trumps (at a suit contract) will you lead immediately?

On this deal you will win the D Q (or the ace if East plays the king). The best plan is to try for two club ruffs. Since you must lose the lead, you cannot afford to draw two rounds of trumps (an opponent may lead a third trump).

Therefore, you should cash one top trump, then lead a club to the jack. This will surely lose. Win any return and cash a second top trump. Then proceed to ruff two clubs. This ensures your contract assuming a 3-2 trump break.

Article 7A05 MainTop Planning the Play

© 1993 Richard Pavlicek