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PLAY OF THE HAND IN NO TRUMP
You are declarer of a No Trump contract. The opening lead has been made and your partner puts down the dummy hand. What should you as declarer do even before making a single play?
1. Take Note of the Opening Lead: ‑ The suit that is led as well as the number of the actual card can both give important information to the declarer. Example: The lead against a No Trump contract is usually fourth best from the opponent’s longest suit. Thus, if a "2" is led, the opponent has only four of the suit and declarer can then deduce how many cards of the suit are held the partner of the opponent who has led.
2. Use the Rule of Eleven: ‑ A method of rapid calculation that enables one to count the number of cards (higher than the one led) which are held within the three remaining hands after the presumed lead of fourth best from longest and best suit by the opponent on lead. Rule is helpful to both the defenders and to declarer.
Ex. ???(5) K107(Defender) (or) ???(7) (E)
3. Count Your Winners: ‑ Do this instead of counting your losers as in the case of a suit contract. See how many tricks can be taken before relinquishing the lead, which opponent you can best afford to have lead against you in case there are two ways against which to finesse, and how many tricks can be established by giving the lead away. Don't run to take your winners unless you fear a suit being led against you or until you no longer have stoppers in all four suits.
Example: The contract is 3 NT and the four of Spades is led.
YOUR HAND DUMMY
Spades ‑ AK XX
Hearts ‑ KQX AXX
Diamonds ‑ KQJ10 XXX
Clubs ‑ XXXX KQlOXX
You pause to count your quick winners ‑ two in Spades and three in Hearts. By leading Diamonds and forcing out the Ace, three more tricks can be established. The ninth trick can assuredly be available in Clubs. However, timing is all important when playing a NT contract. When the opponents win the Ace of Diamonds, a second Spade will almost assuredly be led thereby eliminating declarer's second and last stopper in the Spade suit. Before declarer can get the ninth trick in Clubs, the opponents will take at least three Spade tricks, the Ace of Diamonds and the Ace of Clubs, setting the contract one trick.
The solution here is that declarer must go after the Club suit first not the diamond suit. True the Diamonds are more solid, but the Clubs may yield four tricks after the Ace has been knocked out. Declarer, having only five sure quick tricks, (two in Spades and three in Hearts), will fair best by trying to establish the four other needed tricks in Clubs before his/her Spade stoppers are used up. The Club play may not succeed, but at least it will give declarer a fighting chance to make the contract whereas playing the Diamond suit first will not.