- 1 -   






MAKING A PLAN    We previously discussed, although in general terms, that the objective for declarer play in a Suit Contract centered around focusing upon potential losing tricks and their elimination, and around potential winning tricks in a No Trump contract and their possible supplementation.   Before a declarer initiates his/her declarer play, however, it is essential to organize the play of the hand.  Four basic steps are indicated and necessary to accomplish these goals:


    Pause To Consider The Objectives ‑ What is the contract, who are my opponents, what card 

                                                                            was led and what is its significance to me and to my 

                                                                            opponents need I play conservatively or aggressively as

                                                                            a result of the lead. What is the number of acceptable 

                                                                            winners or losers in order to fulfill the contract.

            Look At The Projected Winners Or Losers ‑ Dependent upon either a No Trump or suit 

                                                                                             contract respectively.

                   (A)  In a No Trump Contract, playing techniques include:

                                   (1) Promotion of high cards (Developing a sure trick when holding a suited KQ)

          (2) Suit establishment (Developing tricks through length)

                                     (3) Finessing (Attempting to develop a second trick when holding a tenace

                    (B) In a Suit Contract all of the above apply plus:

                                   (1) Trumping Losers

                                   (2) Discarding losers on extra winners

      Analyze The Alternatives ‑ Need you play conservatively or aggressively based upon such

                                                              variables as; the skill of the opponents, the quality of your game 

                                                              so far that event, what you believe the rest of the field is likely to

                                                              have been faced as to their suspected contract and its probability      

                                                              of success.

   Now Put It All Together ‑ Using the above information along with factors such as being

                                                           aware of entries, avoiding the dangerous opponent, using the     

                                                           hold‑up‑play, inferences and probable placement of missing high 

                                                           cards, trump pieces and suit distribution all deduced from  

                                                           previous bidding or lack of same


Exercise 1:   Counting Objective of Winners/Losers


     3C (4 Losers)       6NT (12 Winners)        4S (3 Losers)       1NT (7 Winners)       2D (5 Losers)



Exercise 2:   Counting Sure Winners (Sure Tricks = ones capable of being taken without giving up the 

                    lead to the opponents.


  N   -     AKQ (3)     AK (2)     JX (5)         KQX (0)     AXXXX (5)     AKQ (3)     AXXX (2)

  S    -     XXX          QX          AKQ10X    JXX            KQXXX          XX             KXX





                                                                                                                                                                    - 2 -


Conclusion: Winners are counted by looking at the combined holding in each suit.  A winner is a card

                   that will take a trick without giving up the lead to the opponents.  The maximum number of

                   winners one can count is the number of cards in the longer hand.  If one have enough cards    

                   in the suit such that the opponents will have none left after your top cards are played, you    

                   do not need all the honors in order to run the suit.



Exercise 3: Counting Losers ‑ defined as the number of tricks the opponents are likely to take.


N (Dummy)    KQ                KQ             QJ10          XXXXX      AK                    XXX            KJ10

  S (Declarer)   AXX (2/0)     XX (2/1)    XX (2/2)     AK (O)       XXXXX (5/3)    AQJ (1/1)     XXX (3/2)




There are two basic typos of losers; quick losers,  and slow losers.   Quick losers are those that the opponents can take immediately if they have the lead.   Slow losers are those which the opponents can never take immediately because they must first give one the lead back first.


Exercise 4: Counting both quick and slow losers:


DUMMY         KQJX                   J1098                         XXXX                AX                             KXK                      QX

DECLARER      XX (1 Quick)      XXXX (3 Quick)       AX (1 Slow)       XXXX (3 Slow)        XX (2 Quick         XXX (lQ,lS)




If the cards in the dummy and declarer's hand are unevenly divided, the order in which the cards are played; the first trick(s) should be won by the high card(s) from the short side.


Exercise 5: Which high card would you win the first trick with in each following combination:


DUMMY             AQJ1OX         AX                  AJX                          QX                       KQX

DECLARER        KX (King)      KQX (Ace)      KQXX (Ace/Jack)     AKJX (Queen)     AJX (Any)

                           INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                      - 3 -





THE DEVELOPMENT OF TRICKS ‑ There are numerous ways of developing tricks that would otherwise not be there as quick winners.  These methods include but are not limited to the following:


A.    THE PROMOTION OF HIGH CARDS ‑ Giving up of one's high card(s), especially when a sequence of high cards is present, is one of the most certain methods of developing additional tricks.  One must consider the losing of such a promotional trick to the opponents as early as is possible in the play of the cards before controls are expended in other outside suits.


Exercise 1:   How many times would you have to give up the lead in order to promote otherwise 

                    unavailable tricks, and how many winners would be produced in the following holdings?


                                                                       DUMMY:           KQJ10           J1098           Q1OX             KX             JXX

         DECLARER:        XXXX           XXXX          JXX               QX             lO9X


                                           1‑3                3‑1              2‑1                1‑1                0


      Notice that in the above examples, the more high cards you have in the suit, the more potential the suit has for the development of tricks ‑ even though the opponents have one or two higher cards.   Patience is required and one must not be afraid of losing the lead to the opponents if, in the end, tricks are promoted.



Exercise 2:    Assuming an outside entry in another suit in dummy, how many tricks would you expect to  

                     develop through promotion, and which card would you play first in the following suit      



       DUMMY:              KJ109X          QJX           KQlOX           J1OX           Q1098X

                                 DECLARERER:         QX                  KX            JX                   QX               KJ


                                      4‑Q                 2‑K            3‑J                 1‑Q              4-K


       Notice that by starting with the high card from the short side when promoting winners, you lessen the chance you will become stranded wondering how to return to the promoted winners across the table.


B. THE DEVELOPMENT OF TRICKS THROUGH LENGTH ‑ One can statistically conclude (in

all but the most unusual circumstance) that the division of missing cards within any suit amongst the opponents is as follows:


      (1) If there are an even number of cards outstanding in a suit (2, 4, 6) ‑ then the cards tend to be unevenly divided.   For example, if there are six cards held by the opposition, they would

 probably be divided 4‑2 rather than 3‑3


        (2) If there are an odd number of cards outstanding in a suit (3, 5, 7) ‑ then the cards tend

  to be divided as evenly as possible.  For example, if there are five cards held by the

  opposition, they would likely be divided 3 2 rather than 4‑1.





                                                                                                                                                          - 4 -


Exercise 1:   If the opponents hold the number of cards shown below, how would you likely find the 

                     Cards distributed between the two opponent's hands?


                            3               4               5               6               7               8               9


             2‑1                                                                                                         3‑1               3‑2           4‑2                                                                                                     4‑3            5‑3        5‑4


Exercise 2:   When deciding how many tricks you can expect to develop from a long suit holding, it

                     helps to estimate how the opponents holding is likely to be divided. In the following

                     examples, how many tricks would you get if the suit were to be divided as favorably as



DUMMY:                AKXX             AXXX             AXXXX           KXXXXX             AKXXX

DECLARER:            XXXX             KQX                KXX                AX                        XXXX


                                      3                     3                      4                        5                            4


Exercise 3: Giving of a trick to the opponents which you otherwise could have won is called



                 The ducking of a trick(s) can be very useful when trying to establish a long suit.   Assuming

                  there are no outside high card entries in the dummy other than the ones in the suit shown,

                  how would you play the following holdings?    How would you expect the opponent's cards

                  to be divided, how many tricks would you expect to take, and how many times should you

                  duck in order not to strand the established winners?


          DUMMY:            AKXXX          AXXXX          AKXXXX          AXXXX          AXXX

        DECLARER:             XXX                    KXX                    XX                           XXX                     KXX


                                           3-2, 4                    3-2, 4                     3-2, 5                      3-2, 3                  4-2, 2


                                       Duck Once         Duck Once          Duck Once          Duck Twice            - 0 -




          When you have a limited number of winners in the dummy, it is oft times necessary to take your losses early in a suit so that you have enough cards left in declarer's hand to enable you to get to the winners you worked so hard to establish.



          In conclusion, developing long suits, in order to promote winning tricks, works in no trump and in trump contracts.  In a No Trump contract, you are attempting to develop extra winners.   In suit contracts, however, you are trying to eliminate extra losers.   Often all that is required is a normal division of the missing cards and the ability of declarer to play the cards in the proper sequence in order to take advantage of the distribution of the missing cards held by the opponents.









                                                                                                                                                                                       - 5 -

                                                                 INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                       







C.  THE FINESSE : The attempt to gain power for lower ranking cards by taking advantage of a presumed favorable position of higher ranking cards held by the opponents. The process is based upon the idea of leading toward the card(s) you hope will take a trick.  It will be successful 50% of the time.


          Exercise 1: To avoid losing a trick to an honor missing from a tenace holding.


           DUMMY:                AQX                AKJ                KJX                            AKJXX   (8 Ever - 9 Never)              

           DECLARER:             XXX                XXX               AX                              XXX


          Exercise 2: To gain a trick with lower ranking cards.


                DUMMY:                   XX                   QXX                    XXX

              DECLARER:               KX                   AXX                    QXX



          Exercise 3:  To prepare for a second finesse in the same suit.


               DUMMY:              AJ10            AK109             AJ9

             DECLARER:           XXX           XXX               XXXX



          Exercise 4:  Repeated finesses. If successful will yield more tricks than via a simple promotion.


               DUMMY:              KQX             AQJ

             DECLARER:          XXX             XXX



           Exercise 5:  The development of a long suit via a combined promotion of high cards and the            

                              simple finesse.  Combining these ideas, how many tricks might be developed in each     

                              of the following combinations, assuming the location of the missing high card(s)        

                              and the division of the missing cards are as favorable as possible.


                   DUMMY:              QXX              KQXX          KXXXX              AQJXX             XXXX     

               DECLARER:           AXXXX         XXXX           XXX                    XXX                AKJXX


                                                    4                    3                     3                          5                      4



Conclusion: Extra tricks can be developed by combining the finesse with the development of long suits.    

                   Just how many tricks capable of being taken is dependent upon the location of the high

                   cards and the division of the missing cards of the suit between the opponents.




                                                                                                                                                                        - 6 -



Exercise 6:  The choice of leading towards the high card or of leading the high card itself. In each of

                  the following combinations, how would you play each of the following card combinations   

                   so as to achieve the maximum number of tricks?



          DUMMY:                AXX           J109           QX           QJXX           JX

    DECLARER:             QJ10           AKXX       AXX         AXX            AQ109



 Conclusion:  One should lead the high card itself instead of leading toward the high card only when you    

                     have most of the high card strength and when you don't mind if the opponent COVERS your  

                     high card with a higher card. To do so will have the effect of attempting to trap the missing 

                     high card held by the opposition. Otherwise, lead toward the higher card.




Exercise 7:   The deep finesse ‑ a finessing technique used when two or more high cards are missing      

                    higher in rank than the card finessed.


        DUMMY:                           AQ10                             XXX                                 AJ9

       DECLARER:                       XXX                               KJ10                                 XXX


                                              Finesse the 10                 Finesse the 10                      Finesse the 9

                                            and presume the               and presume the                  and presume the

                                           K or K/J on the left          Q or Q/A on the right        K/10 or Q/10 on the left                                 




Conclusion: When you are leading towards high cards, two of the honors are missing, and you have a 

                    choice of cards to play, play the lower card first.
























                                                                                                                                                                                        - 7 -

                                                                INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                  






ELIMINATING LOSERS - TRUMPING AND DISCARDING: - Two specific ways of ridding oneself of losers exclusively in trump contracts are: (1) the ruffing of losing tricks from side suits other than trumps (TRUMPING), and (2), the discarding of losers upon extra winners in side suits other than trumps (DISCARDING).



A.  TRUMPING LOSERS:  - Several conditions and patterns of card placement must exist for this procedure to work to its fullest potential yielding the most number of additional tricks. They are as follows:


1.       The side suit desirous of being trumped must be unevenly divided with there being fewer cards in dummy’s hand than in declarer’s hand; i.e., it is usually beneficial to trump ONLY in the hand with the shorter trump suit, not the longer.  (Remember:  when counting losers, you must focus on declarer’s hand for losers to be ruffed in dummy, not upon losers in dummy’s hand, because it rarely pays to trump in declarer’s hand; i.e., the hand with the longer trump suit.    In the following examples, does the side suit shown provide an opportunity to trump losers in the dummy, and if so, how many?




          DUMMY:          8           10987          42         ----        AK6

        DECLARER:         A42         AK             QJ         965         5


                         Yes-2         No            No         Yes-3        No


Conclusion:  Side suits that are equally divided between your hand and the dummy do not provide an opportunity to trump losers.  The cards in a side suit have to be unevenly divided with the shortness existing in the dummy, not in declarer’s hand.  The exception to this would be either for a CROSS-RUFF scenario and/or for DUMMY REVERSAL situations.



2.      The management of the trump suit is critical.  There is always a dilemma; i.e., it is generally a good idea to draw the opponent’s trumps because they might otherwise be used to turn some of your winners into unexpected losers, but, on the other hand, dummy’s trumps must be preserved for necessary ruffing power to eliminate tricks that would otherwise be lost.  In the following hands, how many trumps are needed in dummy to take care of declarer’s losers in the suit shown?



DUMMY:       K4       ---        A         Q2            QJ

        DECLARER:      A85     1053       753        AK7           853


                                    1        3         2          0             1            


Conclusion:  When declarer decides that the best way to get rid of a loser from his/her hand is to trump it in the dummy, declarer must calculate how many trumps will be necessary to do the job.  Trumps can be drawn as long as declarer makes certain to leave enough trumps in the dummy to accomplish the desired number of ruffing tricks by the dummy hand.




- 8 -


3. Sometimes declarer can start to trump losing tricks in the dummy without giving up the lead to the Opponents.   However, it is sometimes necessary to relinquish the lead once or even several times before the conditions are right to trump a loser in dummy.  In each of the following example, how many times must one forfeit the lead before losers in declarer’s hand can be trumped in the dummy hand?





    DUMMY:          A5         Q         65          ----           7

   DECLARER:        986        1098      1072        J78            A92


                     1           1         2          0              0


Conclusion:  At times, the only way to promote an extra trick in order to make a contract is to give up the lead to the opponents before declare has the ability to trump a loser in the dummy hand.



B. DISCARDING LOSERS: - An alternative to trumping a loser in dummy is to throw away a loser from declarer’s hand upon one of dummy’s extra winners.  The pattern of card distribution, this time, is that dummy has more cards in the suit than does declarer.  In the following exercise, how many losers can be discarded on extra winners in the dummy, and what does declarer have to do in order to prepare the side suit shown for discarding losers?




    DUMMY:       AKQ         KQJ        AKXXX          AQJ          QJ109

  DECLARER:      98          64         932            74           86


                  1           1          2             1              2

               Nothing     Promote   Duck 1 Trick  Finesse Twice   Promote


Conclusion:  When searching for alternative ways of disposing of losers in a trump contract, look to see if dummy has additional winners in a side suit (other than the trump suit) on which to throw your losers.






















  - 9 -

                                                      INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                       






          ENTRIES: - An entry is a conveyance which allows you access from one hand (Declarer’s) to the other (Dummy’s) or vice versa.   When one is developing extra tricks or getting rid of losers, entries, by virtue of their making it capable of access from one hand to the other, facilitate the development of tricks.   Entries can be either high or low cards.   In the following examples, how many entries to the dummy are there in each suit holding shown? 





    DUMMY:      AQ7          AK3          104          K109          KQJ

   DECLARER:    K92          7            AKQJ3        AQJ65         A


                 2            1             1            3            0



          Conclusion:  A sure entry is a winner on one side of the table combined with a smaller card on the other side of the table necessary for communication with the entry.   Several considerations dealing with entries and their usage are important.  They are as follows:




1.      Creating Entries:  When there is no quick entry from one hand to the other, it may oft times be possible to create one by ( a ) promoting a card into a winner, ( b ) establishing a winner through length,    ( c ) using the finesse, or ( d ) trumping a card in a suit contract.

               Whether or not one is successful in these hypothetical endeavors depends upon several possible variables.   In (a), attempting to promote a card through length, success will depend upon what happens when the lead is forfeited to the opponents in order to promote the entry.   In (b), attempting to establish an entry through length, success will be dependent upon the division of the opponent’s holdings in the suit in question.   In (c), the success of any finesse necessary to establish an entry is, of course, dependent upon the favorable location of the missing card.   Finally, in (d), establishing an entry by trumping a card is, of course, dependent upon the shortness in an outside suit other than trump, and the availability of a trump with which to accomplish the attempt.   In the following examples, how might one create an entry to dummy in the suit holdings shown?





     DUMMY:     KQ8           K9             Q83          QJ10          9864

    DECLARER:   732           84             A64          732           AK53


             Drive out   Lead Toward    Lead Toward     Drive Out      Give Up

                 A            K              Q            A & K       One Trick




          Conclusion: - Don’t be discouraged if you require an entry and do not see an immediate solution.  With a little effort and patience you can often create an entry using the techniques previously discussed; i.e., by promotion, by establishment through length, with the help of a finesse, or by trumping outside shortness.



    - 10 -



2.      Preserving Entries :  Because entries are so very important in the play of the hand, they can be preserved when needed by using the guidelines spoken of earlier; i.e., winning the high card from the short side first, and taking one’s losses early.   Suppose, for example, there are no entries in any other suit other than the ones shown in the examples below, how would you play each suit in order to take all of the tricks to which you were entitled?




      DUMMY:       K6          K8754         AK63          A8732         AKJ10

    DECLARER:      AQJ5        A32           QJ4           954           Q


                  Play K       Duck        Play Q,J        Duck         Overtake

                   First      1 Trick       First          Twice        Q With A




3.  Estimating the Number of Entries Needed : In order to take a finesse, one or more entries are needed from the side from which the finesse originates, depending on how many times the finesse has to be taken.   In the following examples, how many entries would be needed in outside suits other than the ones shown in the dummy in order to try the finesse(s) necessary to maximize the number of tricks taken?




     DUMMY:       85         863          652           963          A63

       DECLARER:     AQ6        AQJ          KQ7           AQ10         Q92


                   1          2            2              2          0(Use A)  






































 - 11 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   





Watching Out For The Opponents:   While declarer is attempting to make enough tricks to make his/her contract, the defenders are also striving to make the maximum number of tricks possible so as to defeat the specified contract.   Good Declarer Play, therefore, necessitates considering what the opponents are likely to do.   The topics covered within this lesson deal with the ways in which declarer can lessen the number of tricks scored by the opponents, despite their interference.


          1. Holding Up: - If declarer is playing in a No Trump contract, the opponents will attempt to set up their long suit by driving out your high cards.  Having the advantage of timing because they have had the opening lead, the opponents can then run the remaining winners in their long suit.  In a Suit contract declarer can prevent this from happening by the use of trump cards.  In No Trump, there is also a method of preventing the opposition from running their long suit.  It has to do with timing.  Look at the following example:

                                                                         NORTH (DUMMY)


                        WEST                          EAST

                        KQJ109                        832

                                  SOUTH (DECLARER)                                                                



Declarer has one sure trick (The Ace) whether it is played on the first, second, or third trick.

When declarer decides to play the Ace, however, is the key in effecting the number of tricks the defenders can produce.  If declarer wins the Ace immediately, no matter which defender gets the lead, the suit can be run.  If, however, declarer holds-up and refuses to take the Ace until the third trick, East is stripped of any remaining cards in the suit and, if West has no outside entries, or alternatively, if East fails to find the entry that East, indeed, does have outside the suit led, declarer has succeeded in stopping the suit from being run. 

        In the following examples, assuming your left hand opponent has led the suit shown against your No Trump contract, if you refuse to play the Ace until it finally must be played, how many cards will your right hand opponent have left in the suit led if it divides as you might expect?




        DUMMY:         86          743          7642          974          10

  DECLARER:       A97          A62          A3            A8           A6


                  0(5-3)       0(4-3)       1(4-3)       1(5-3)       2(5-4)


Conclusion: - When declarer does not take a trick immediately, because he/she desires to strand the opponents long suit, it is called a hold-up play.  The timing as to when to take a trick can have a discernible impact by stripping the defenders of their ability to communicate in the suit in question.



2.      How Long To Hold Up:  - One must not be tempted to use the hold-up play every time one can just for the sake of doing so.  If the overall picture exists such that you have enough winners to make the contract, or to run the rest of the tricks without holding up, or if there is another suit to which the opponents could switch which would be even more injurious, one must be careful not to hold-up.  In the following example, West leads the King of Hearts against your 3NT contract.   Should you hold up?




                                                                                                                                              - 12 -


               NORTH (DUMMY)           

               862                       Consult your plan.  You need nine tricks           

               74                     and you have nine tricks. There is no need to   

               K973                   put the contract at risk by holding up.  If    

               AQJ5                   you do not take the trick, the opponents could

                                      switch to Spades and your contract would be                      

K (Hearts)                            defeated. 

               SOUTH (DECLARER)






Conclusion:  Only use the hold-up play when you must give up the lead later in order to promote the number of tricks needed.  Always remember to consult your plan first before playing.




3.      The Dangerous Opponent: - Since the opponents are always trying to capture your high cards, it is universal that one of your two opponents is always more dangerous than the other in this regard.   It is, therefore, critical for declarer to be alert so as to identify which of the opponents is the the more perilous.     In the following examples, which opponent is the dangerous one?


EXERCISE 2                          


         DUMMY:         K84             984


        DECLARER:       653             K32


                    Left-Handed     Right-Handed


Conclusion:  Not only do the opponents interfere with your plans by playing their suit(s) before you can play yours, but they also attempt to defeat you by trapping your high cards.   In both instances, one of the opponents is likely to be the more dangerous and declarer’s ability to identify the more perilous opponent is most useful and important.




4.      Avoiding the Dangerous Opponent: - Taking a proposed finesse in the proper direction is one way to avoid letting the suspected dangerous opponent get the lead.  In the following examples, if your opponent to your right is the dangerous opponent, how would you play each of the following suit combinations? 




  DUMMY:     AJ105          10753          J103          A9752          AQJ83

 DECLARER:   K983           AQJ8           AK872         KJ3            10764


            A Then J      Finesse 10     Finesse J     Finesse J        Play A














                                                                                                                                                                       - 13 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   





Managing The Trump Suit - When playing in a suit contract, Declarer’s most important task is the management of the trump suit.  The trump cards are all powerful and give both the defenders and the declarer control of the opponent’s long suits.  The trump suit, in many respects, is like any other suit; i.e., winners can be developed through promotion, length or finessing.   As declarer, if you decide to draw all of the missing trumps, how would you proceed with each of the following trump suits (With High Cards, Promotion, Length, Finesse), how many times would you have to draw trumps so as to take out all of the missing cards assuming an expected division of those outstanding, and how many losers would you anticipate?




   DUMMY:       KQ6           J985          A95          QJ10          K963

  DECLARER:     AJ9542        Q1074         87642        A9876         A752


   METHOD:    High Cards    Promotion      Length       Finesse       Length


 # LOSERS:        0             2             2            0             1


 # ROUNDS:     3 (3-1)       3 (3-2)       3 (3-2)       3 (3-2)       3 (3-2)


Conclusion:  When drawing trumps, winners can be established through promotion, length and the finesse.  Keep track of the trumps, and draw only enough rounds to eliminate any outstanding pieces.



1.      Looking At Quick Losers And Slow Losers:  - Before deciding whether or not to draw trumps immediately, declarer must first determine how many quick losers and how many slow losers are present.    Remember, a quick loser is one that the opponents can take immediately as soon as they secure the lead, and a slow loser is one they cannot take unless and until they give the lead back to you.    In the following holdings, how many quick and slow losers would declarer have in a final contract of 4-Spades?




                    DUMMY                  DUMMY                  DUMMY

                  AQ86                    Q1082                  J964

                  A95                     AK3                    A84

                  742                     J8                     AQ3

                  K54                     KQJ5                   Q74


                    DECLARER               DECLARER               DECLARER

                  KJ754                   KJ976                  Q10873

                  1083                    984                    762

                  Q                       Q10                    K5

                  AQJ2                    A82                    AK8


Quick Losers:        1                      3                      2


Slow Losers:         2                      1                      2










                                                                                                                                                                     - 14 -


2. Drawing Trumps Immediately - Yes or No:  Deciding whether or not to draw trumps immediately, involves three considerations:

a.      Whether or not trumps are needed for some other purposes.  Example:  If declarer is planning to trump losers in dummy, he/she cannot afford to leave fewer trumps in dummy than is required to ruff losers.

b.      Whether or not declare must give up the lead to the opponents while drawing trump.

c.      Whether too many quick losers exist such that the lead cannot afford to be relinquished until the number of quick losers is first reduced.




In the following examples, the Q-Hearts has been led against your final contract of 4-Spades.  In each case, will declarer have to lose the lead in order to draw trumps, should drawing trumps be the first priority, if not, why?


                      DUMMY                  DUMMY                  DUMMY

                     AQ86                   Q1082                  J964

                     A95                    AK3                    A84

                     742                    J8                     AQ3

                     K54                    KQJ5                   Q74


                      DECLARER               DECLARER               DECLARER

                     KJ754                  KJ976                  Q10873

                     1083                   984                    762

                     Q                      Q10                    K5

                     AQJ2                   A82                    AK8


Draw Trumps?:          Yes                     Yes                    No


Reason:            Only 3 Losers          One Loser is Slow       Quick Losers


Conclusion:  It is difficult to draw hard and fast rules as to when to draw trumps, and in some minor cases, even if to draw them at all.   One must plan carefully.   Are trumps needed for more pressing purposes?   Must the lead be forfeited if trumps were to be drawn immediately, and if so, are too many quick losers present to be able to give up the lead?


3. Side Suit Establishment:  In a No Trump contract, in order to establish a particular suit, one sometimes needs to give up a trick or two to the opponents in that suit depending upon the number of outstanding cards held by the defenders and the distribution of same.   In a suit contract, however, such a side suit can be established without losing the lead simply by utilizing the trump suit.   In the following examples, how would you expect the missing cards to be divided in the side suits shown, and how many trumps would declarer need to establish the suit assuming the missing cards were to be divided as expected?




    DUMMY:       AK864          AK964          A97632          AK9842          AQ742

   DECLARER:     32             2              5               53              K5


   DIVISION:      4-2            4-3            4-2             3-2             4-2       


TRUMPS REQUIRED:   2              2              3               1               1


Conclusion:  Trump cards work well to establish a side suit thereby establishing winners without giving up the lead to the opponents.






                                                                                                                                                                       - 15 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   








Combining Techniques: - All the techniques, previously discussed, can be combined in various ways, depending upon the circumstances.  Many of these techniques work synergistically in powerful combination.  In the following suit holdings, assuming sufficient entries between the two hands, how would you play the following (Promotion, Finesse, or Length), and how many tricks would you expect if the missing high cards lie favorably and the suit divides as expected?




   DUMMY:        QJ1052         762          KQ862           AQ932          Q1032

  DECLARER:      843            AQJ83        75              6              K654


   METHOD:       P & L          F & L       F(P)& L          F & L        P & F & L

  # TRICKS:        3              5         (2)3(4)            3              3


          Conclusion:  Often a suit requires the use of a combination of techniques in order to develop the maximum number of winning tricks.




1. Choosing A Technique:  - Most technique application for winning tricks requires a combination of alternatives in order to give declarer the maximum number chance of success resulting in the maximum number of winning tricks.  What is the maximum number of possible tricks, and via which combination of techniques, for the following examples?



      DUMMY:          AJ63          A842          AKJ3          842          K9532

     DECLARER:        K942          KJ753         862           KQ6          874


      METHOD:       Finesse       A/K Drop      Finesse      Finesse       Finesse        

                 “Eight Ever”   “Nine Never”

   MAX.# TRICKS        4              5            4             2            3


          Conclusion:  The best way to play a particular suit may depend upon such things as how many tricks are needed to guarantee the contract.   Inferences from the bidding are oft times helpful, but usually declarer desires the maximum number of tricks.  A useful guideline when you are missing the Queen of a suit is: “Eight (or Less) Ever, Nine Never”.  When no other information is available, this is a good axiom to follow.






2. Combining Alternatives:  When playing two or more suits in order to develop tricks, one must often be careful to play the suits in the proper sequence making maximum use and careful conservation of entries.  If the first plan does not work, a back-up alternative should be pre-planned.  On the following hands, assuming a 3NT contract, the lead of a Jack of Hearts, and no other available information; which suit, Clubs or Diamonds, should be played first, and why?



  - 16 -



             DUMMY                  DUMMY                DUMMY

             742                    K4                   KQ8

             7642                   752                  73

             KQ                     KQ4                  962

             KJ72                   J10832               AQ842


             DECLARER               DECLARER             DECLARER

             A863                   A862                 A42

             A83                    AK8                  A2

             A985                   862                  AKQ5     

             AQ                     KQ5                  7653


                       CLUBS                   CLUBS               DIAMONDS


          Conclusion:  When putting your declarer play plan into action, try and combine the best possibilities in the various suits in order to give you the maximum opportunity to make the contract, and within that context, the most number of tricks.   Never loose sight of the objective!   It is the contract and any inherent entry problems which might be present.  The best suit to play first may not always be the one that looks the most attractive.


3.      Choosing An Alternative:  When more than one suit can provide the number of tricks necessary, you will oft times not be able to try everything.   One must choose the plan which has the greatest possibility for success.   Don’t go after a suit because it looks easy, if it does not provide you with the number of necessary tricks for your stated contract.   If you need a favorable lie of the cards, try to pick the suit with the greatest odds.   Remember, if you need a suit to divide, an odd number of cards tends to divide evenly, and an even number, oddly.   If your choice is between any finesse in one suit (50% chance of success), and a 3-3 division in another suit, choose the finesse.    A 4-2 division is more likely than a 3-3, and so the chances of any 3-3 split occurring is less than 50%.    Finally, if the opponents force you into a position where there is only one suit which will give you the tricks you will need, go for it.  Go with your only alternative.    In the following, finding yourself in a 3NT contract, and a Queen of Spade opening lead, which suit, and why, should you attack?




                    DUMMY                  DUMMY                DUMMY

                    K82                    642                  73                       

                    963                    QJ3                  Q103

                    AQJ7                   KQJ                  AKQ3

                    QJ4                    Q1053                J1043


                    DECLARER               DECLARER             DECLARER

                    A93                    AK3                  A2

                    AKQ                    AK82                 AKJ7

                    985                    862                  642     

                    K1095                  KJ8                  KQ82


                                     CLUBS                   CLUBS               DIAMONDS









                                                                                                                                                                       - 17 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   







1.      The Defensive Hold-Up:  Declarer is not the only player who has the ability to use the hold-up play in order to prevent the opponents from enjoying otherwise established tricks.   The defenders can also use this technique in an attempt to strand declarer’s suit.  Suppose you are defending against a No Trump contract and there are no other entries into dummy other than the suit shown in the following example:



                                       NORTH (DUMMY)


               WEST                                           EAST

                4                                              A93

                                 SOUTH (DECLARER)



          Declarer plays the K, partner plays the 4.  It is obvious that declarer is attempting to establish the suit.  East should duck.   South then continues with the 6, partner discards and dummy plays the Queen.  What should East do at trick 2?



Conclusion:  When declarer is attempting to establish a long suit in No Trump, defenders should hold-up as long as it takes to strand the suit.  A count of the suit in question can be assisted by the partner of the defender deciding how long to hold-up by means of playing high-low from an even number of  a holding in the suit, and low-high from an odd number.   Even in circumstances where declarer has other outside entries, or even in the case of suit contracts, it still may be advantageous to hold-up until declarer be forced to use up an additional entry in order to continue running the suit.




     In the following example, assuming declarer has no outside entries in a No Trump contract, when should you win the Ace, and how many times should you as defender hold-up?


EXERCISE 1                                                                    


                 DUMMY           You can see nine (9) cards between yourself and the            

     YOU                 KQJ109       Dummy.  If partner has only one card, he/she will show   

     A752                     out on the second round of the suit; declarer then,    

                              has three and you should win the third round holding up for two rounds.  If partner follows suit on the second trick, declarer has only two of the suit and You can take the second trick with your Ace.
















                                                                                                                                                                       - 18 -



2.      Defender’s Plan:   We will discuss in future lessons some specific guidelines for defender play such as: Opening Leads against No Trump and Suit Contracts, Third-hand and Second-hand play, Defensive signals, Developing Defensive Tricks, and How to Interfere with Declarer.   In general, however, the Defender’s must first learn to establish a Plan for the Defense.  They must each consider how many tricks do we need to defeat the contract, How many do we already have, from whence can we establish more, and how do we put it all together?  





     In the following hand, you are defending a contract of 4H and your partner leads the Queen of Spades.  Declarer wins the trick with the Ace of Spades, and draws two rounds of trumps with the Ace and King.  Declarer then finesses for the King of Diamonds and loses to your King.  How many tricks do you have, how many more do you need to defeat the contract, where might they be gotten, and what do you lead after winning the Diamond King to make it happen? 






                        Q73                         YOU


        QS                                                                                       86         




Notice:  Defender must not wait to switch to the Clubs, since declarer can throw off Club losers on the now-established Diamond suit.  Defender must play the Clubs immediately.   




Conclusion:   By looking at the overall picture, one can often see how a specific contract might be defeated.   Make a plan and try to imagine what your partner might need to have for your side to defeat the contract.    Then play the cards as if they existed in that way. 





























                                                                                                                                                                       - 19 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   






Leads against No Trump Contracts:  Opening leads can make or break either declarer or the defense.  Unfortunately, the card selection must come before the dummy has been tabled.   Even without seeing the dummy, however, the opening lead can be selected, both as to the best suit and the actual specific card within that suit, based upon preferential standard guidelines for opening leads.



1.      Choosing the Proper Suit:   One of the most well-known maxims in leading against a No Trump contract is to lead fourth highest from one’s longest and strongest suit holding.   Although this is generally a good idea, it must be exercised at the right time and place, and is not always the most appropriate lead.   Many times, the bidding itself can, will, and indeed, should influence one’s choice.   If partner has bid, his/her suit is likely to be the most productive of the possible choices, especially if it represents the defending teams longest combined suit holding.   Finally, the level of the final contract may, and, oft times, does influence the selection for the best card to lead.    Which card from the following example hand should a defender lead against a No Trump contract under each of the listed conditions?




     109762     1) The contract is 3NT and your partner has bid Hearts.

     86         2) The contract is 1NT and no bidding on your side has occurred.

     A943       3) The contract is 3NT after one of the opponents opened 1 Spade.

     KQ         4) The contract is 6NT.


1)   8 Hearts        2) 10 Spades        3) 3 Diamonds        4) K Clubs



          Conclusion:  The opening lead is defender’s chance to get a head start in establishing winners in order to either defeat the specified contract or to minimize the number of overtricks to which declarer is entitled.  It is critical to start with the suit offering the greatest potential for your side.  One must pick from a suit bid by either or both defenders, longest and strongest from amongst the suits not bid by the opponents, or from tricks easily seen as being winners.




2.      Choosing the Card in Partner’s Suit:   Once a defender has selected the specific suit from which to lead, the actual card from within that suit must be chosen.   This specific selection is important for two reasons.  (A) The disadvantageous fact that the defenders cannot see each others hands must be overcome as quickly as is possible.  Thus, they must send each other messages about their hands by means of the specific cards they choose to play beginning with the opening lead.  (B) They must facilitate and maximize the opportunity of taking the maximum number of tricks to which they might be entitled.  In each of the following hands, you are leading your partners bid suit.   Which is the best card to lead and why?




1)          DUMMY               2)        DUMMY               3)       DUMMY

   YOU     962    PARTNER        YOU     K85     PARTNER       YOU     96   PARTNER

    J3             KQ875         QJ3             A10962        Q75          A10842

         DECLARER                      DECLARER                     DECLARER

          A104                           74                           KJ3




    - 20 -



In 1), you should lead the Jack, the top of a doubleton. You are essentially starting the suit by playing the high card from two from the short side.


In 2), the Queen is the choice, the top of touching cards in partner’s suit.  This tells partner that you do not have the next higher card but do have the next lower, unless you are leading from a doubleton.  The lead of the Queen will trap dummy’s King.  If you had alternatively led the 3, Partner could win the first trick with the ten, but would be incapable of trapping the King from Dummy unless partner can get back to you hand, and this is not always possible.


In 3), the 5 is the preferred choice, lowest from three or more cards headed by a non-touching honor.  Partner can win the Ace and then lead back through declarer’s K-J promoting your Queen.  If you were to have led the Queen, declarer would have gotten two tricks, one with the King and one with the Jack.


          Conclusion:   When leading partner’s suit, one should choose the top of a doubleton, the top of touching honors, or low from three or more card headed by an honor.



3.      Leading the Top of a Sequence:   When leading against a No Trump contract under circumstances where partner has not bid, and no further information about the Opponent’s suits is available, you choose your longest suit.   One normally leads the fourth best unless one of the following holdings exists.    If the suit has a 3-card or longer sequence, you lead the top card (J109X, QJ10X, etc.).    If you hold a broken sequence, a sequence of two touching cards with a lower ranking card following a break in the sequence, (QJ9, J108, KQ10, 875, etc.) you lead the top of the two touching cards from the broken sequence.     If you hold an internal sequence, a sequence of  two or more touching cards with a higher ranking card in the suit (AQJX, KJ10X, Q109X, 10876, etc.) you lead the top of the two or more touching cards.   In the following examples, you are leading your own suit against a No Trump contract.  Which is the best card to lead, and how many tricks can the defense develop?  What must the defense do to ensure they take their maximum number of tricks?




1)    DUMMY           2)    DUMMY           3)    DUMMY          4)   DUMMY


 J1096        A752     QJ963       842      AJ1043        876    KQJ83        A62 

         DECLARER             DECLARER               DECLARER            DECLARER

       Q84                  K105                   Q95                 1095


1) Jack; 3            2) Queen; 3           3) Jack; 4           4) King; 5


         Conclusion:  When you are leading your own suit or an unbid suit, your first preference is to lead the     top of a sequence, or the top of a broken sequence, or the inside top of an interior sequence.




4.      Leading a Low Card:  When you look at your long suit, you may not have a long, a broken, or even an internal sequence within the suit that you desire to lead.   Instead, you have a suit containing one, or even two, honors not in sequence.  You will likely require some help from partner in order to establish winners in the suit, and so the best opportunity will develop if you lead a low card over to the hoped-for high card(s) of partner.   In the following suit holdings, and once again, against a No Trump contract, which card should you lead, how many tricks can the defenders take, and what should they do to ensure that they take the maximum number of tricks available to them?




- 21 -


  1)       DUMMY                2)       DUMMY              3)       DUMMY

    YOU     65     PARTNER        YOU     A2     PARTNER      YOU     875    PARTNER 

   K9872             J43         Q763             K854        AQ432             KJ

    DECLARER                       DECLARER                    DECLARER

           AQ10                           J109                        1096


1)   Low(7); 3                  2) Low(3); 3                3) Low(3); 5


     Conclusion:  When leading your long suit against a No Trump contract, lead a low card (fourth highest) if you do not have a 3-card sequence, or a broken or interior sequence.



5.      Selection of the Best Option:  Now that we have listed (Items 1-4) guidelines as to how to pick the best suit, and the card within the suit selected, to lead against a No Trump Contract, assuming a 1NT opening bid by your right hand opponent and no further bids by anyone else, what card do you lead from each of the following hands?


        1)    AK                  2)   J963                3)    AJ10762

              Q10854                   Q4                        K86

              J84                      QJ104                     84

              763                      K85                       85



          Conclusion:  Against a No Trump contract, with no help from the bidding, lead your longest suit.  With a choice of suits, pick the stronger.  If you do not have a sequence from which to lead, then lead a low card, fourth highest.  Now you know the origin of the guideline: “Fourth Highest from Your Longest and Strongest”.



6.      Listening To the Bidding:   When you are deciding upon which suit to lead, and some bidding has taken place by the opponents on their pathway towards a final No Trump contract, the bidding can oft times guide you into making the proper opening suit choice.   As the opponents talk to each other via the bidding process, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from listening and subsequently gleaning the right path towards selection of the best opening lead.   You are leading against a 3NT contract with the bidding having progressed as follows.  What is the best lead to make from the following hands?


               NORTH                      EAST                            SOUTH                       WEST

                (DUMMY)                      (PARTNER)                          (DECLARER)                         (YOU)


                                                                                                    1H                                   P

                     1S                                 P                                        2C                                   P

                     3S                                 P                                        3NT                                 P

                     P                                   P                                        P



1)  74         2)  K10962       3)  63           4) 65           5)  87  

    KQ842          Q75              J963            AK85             A532

    KJ43           J109             Q83             AJ108            KQ109

    98             J8               KQJ10           862              853



          Conclusion:   If the opponents have bid a suit in the auction on their path towards a final No Trump contract, it is generally a good idea to avoid leading it if you have a constructive alternative.   Paying close attention to the bids made by the opponents often can guide you to the best and most likely productive opening lead.



 - 22 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   





     Leads Against Suit Contracts:   Many of the guidelines for selection of the actual card to lead against a suit contract are the same as those for appropriate leads against a No Trump contract.  When selecting the actual suit itself to lead, however, there are some new considerations.   One’s attention, for example, is no longer focused entirely on long suits.   After all, declarer has chosen to play in a trump suit specifically so that the defense could not enjoy winners in their long suits.   The presence of a trump suit, thus has , not only a strong influence on how declarer proceeds to play the hand, but it, likewise, also influences the way the defenders attempt to defeat the contract.     The focus of the defenders must now shift to the strength of their suits; i.e., the high cards they hold.  They must attempt to secure the tricks to which they are entitled before declarer can trump or discard losers on winners in a side suit.  Remember, declarer’s focus is upon losers and how he/she can eliminate them.   Naturally, both sides can utilize these principals, and so the defenders, likewise, may attempt to trump declarer’s winners, and thus, short suits can become a source of tricks for the defending team as well. 


1.      Strength Versus Length:   Against a No Trump contract, since you are attempting to establish a long suit in order to promote one or more small cards which can be developed, you gladly do so, even if you sacrifice a trick in the process, for you are likely to be compensated by the increased number of tricks which are subsequently developed.   In a trump suit contract, however, leading a long suit, especially away from high cards within that suit, may cost a trick.   In the following hands, notice the difference in leading each of the suits against a No Trump contract and against a suit contract (assuming another suit is trump).  Look at the number of winners you are likely to develop versus the number of tricks you sacrifice.  Would you normally lead the suit shown against a No Trump contract, a suit contract, or both, and if yes, which card would you lead?




1)    DUMMY                    2)     DUMMY         3)    DUMMY          4)    DUMMY

  YOU  754  PARTNER    YOU  743  PARTNER   YOU  985   PARTNER   YOU   K95  PARTNER

 K10862       J93      KQJ        1065    AQ742         1063    QJ108        642

     DECLARER             DECLARER            DECLARER              DECLARER

        AQ                  A982                KJ                    A73


Vs. NT   1)3;1;Yes(6)    2)2;0;No           3)4;1;Yes(4)        4)2;0;Yes(Q)


Vs. Suit 1)0;1;No        2)2;0;Yes(K)       3)1;1;No            4)1;0;Yes(Q)



          Conclusion:  Against a suit contract, the emphasis is upon developing tricks from your strong suits rather than long suits.  In doing so, however, one would want to avoid leading a suit which sacrifices a trick.  Since you cannot see your partner’s hand, if partner has not bid, suits in which you have a strong sequence are usually safe to lead. 



2.      Utilizing the Trump Suit:   The defenders can often utilize their trumps by ruffing declarer’s winners.  The lead of a singleton or doubleton by the defense, in order to establish a ruff involves some risk, especially if partner has not bid the suit.  There are, however, certain conditions that increase the likelihood of making such a lead effective, and others in which such a lead offers a poor rate of success.  In the following hands, defending against a 4 Spade contract, and with no other suits bid during the auction, should one attempt to establish a ruff or not? 



- 23 -



1)   865           2) QJ98           3) 86543            4) A74       

   J94              J942              J94                 Q987 

   4                QJ109             AKQJ9               62

   Q97643           6                 3                   J1096


1) Yes           2) No             3) No               4) Yes

Partner Marked    Natural Trump     You Have Long        You Have a

  With Honors     Tricks Present    Trumps and So        Trump Control

                                Make Declarer Trump


          Conclusion:   Often, a Singleton or a Doubleton is an excellent lead against a suit contract.  They are strongly likely to succeed if, (1) Partner has bid your short suit, (2) Partner likely marked with honors,   (3) You have a trump control such that you can access partner on a second attempt, if necessary, even if declarer attempts to draw trumps.  A singleton or doubleton leads are poor leads if none of the above three conditions exist or if you have a natural trump trick thereby negating the advantage of attempting to trump.



3.      Leading Trumps:   One often hears the maxim: “When in doubt, lead trumps”.  In reality, the opposite is more likely to be true; i.e., one should avoid leading trumps unless one of two specific reasons is present making the lead of trumps a likely fruitful endeavor.  The first is to diminish dummy’s trump holding so as to reduce or eliminate dummy’s ruffing capacity.   The second reason for leading a trump is when all other suits appear to be unsafe.    In most other circumstances one should avoid leading trump since declarer will usually begin by drawing trumps himself/herself before going about declarer’s business of taking winners and discarding losers.   The sharp defender will fine tune his/her listening to the bidding of the opponents such that it will usually be clear when a trump lead id likely to be in order.   In which of the following bidding sequences by the opponents would a trump lead be in order by the defense because of its likelihood of effectively reducing the ruffing capacity of dummy?


Exercise 3




     P        1H               1D       1S              1S       2C

     1NT      2D               2C       2H              3C       3S

     P                         3H       4H              4S       P


           YES                        YES                     NO



          Conclusion:  As you begin to pay increasing attention to the bidding of your opponents, you will start to recognize opportune circumstances for choosing to lead trumps to prevent declarer from ruffing losers.  Otherwise, lead a trump only if everything else appears too dangerous.  Try not to be “in doubt” when leading a trump.  Note:  Never lead from a JX, JXX, QX or QXX of trump since it will always forfeit a trick if your partner has the mirror holding; i.e., QXX, QX, JXX or JX.




4.      Choosing the Suit To Lead:   Clues about which suit to lead against a suit contract include, (1) the bidding by the opponents, (2) whether or not partner has entered the bidding, (3) an unbid suit, and (4) a suit with a strong sequence.   All offer a strong chance to promote winners for the defense.  Any of the above offers a better likelihood for success than leading away from an honor.  If nothing else looks attractive, than lead a trump.  You are on lead against a contract of 4H with the following hand.  Which is the best suit and the preferred card to lead in each of the listed conditions?




                                                                                                                                                                       - 24 -



        Q92        1) Your partner overcalled in Clubs during the auction.

        863        2) The only suit bid during the auction was Hearts.

        KQ82       3) The opponents bid all four suits during the auction.

        Q72        4) The opponents bid both Hearts and Diamonds during the auction.


1)   2 Clubs         2) K Diamonds         3) 3 Hearts         4) 2 Clubs or 2 Spades


           Conclusion:  When leading against a suit contract, try and let the bidding help you as to the most likely preferred suit to lead.  If partner has bid a suit, lead that.  Otherwise you might choose an unbid suit, (preferably one with touching high cards), a singleton or doubleton, or even trumps, if appropriate.



5.      Choosing the Card Within a Chosen Suit:  Once you have chosen the best suit to lead, you are now in a position to select the actual card itself.  There are two main differences when leading against a suit contract over that for a No Trump contract.  Against a No Trump contract one leads the top of a 3-card sequence, otherwise fourth best.  Against a suit contract, in contrast, you lead the top of a 2-card or longer sequence, and rarely away from an Ace or a King,   If you must lead a suit headed by the Ace, lead the Ace itself.   In each of the following holdings which would be the preferred choice for lead against both a No Trump contract and then against a suit contract with an identical holding?




1)         DUMMY              2)       DUMMY             3)       DUMMY

   YOU    753     PARTNER      YOU     8     PARTNER      YOU     64    PARTNER

  AK842             106       AJ1093           7542      KQ973            105

        DECLARER                    DECLARER                   DECLARER

         QJ9                          KQ6                        AJ82


1)   4; KING                  2) Jack; Ace               3) 7; King


          Conclusion:  When leading against a suit contract, choose the top card of a 2-card or longer sequence.  If your suit selected is headed by the Ace, lead the Ace rather than away from it. 



6.      Putting it Together:   When making an opening lead always review the auction to see if there are any clues available to guide you.  In the absence of a suit bid by the defense, one usually selects an unbid suit.  It then only remains to select the appropriate card within the chosen suit.




The Auction has proceeded as follows:       North     East     South     West

                                           (Dummy)   (Partner)  (Declarer)   (You)

                                                                          1C          p

Which card would you lead in each of the      1H          P         1S          P

following hands?                                  2S          P         4S          P

                                                  P           P 


1)   QJ4      2) J92     3) K8      4) A93       5) 864       6) 753

   J83         J75        Q97        108532       J932         A105

   QJ62        AJ975      Q10832     6            K5           AQ10

   J108        Q4         Q54        J865         Q874         K1042


           Conclusion:   When leading, always use the information that the bidding affords you.  Generally it is well to lead your partner’s suit and to avoid leading suits bid by the opponents.  Favor strong sequences, with a singleton or trump leads being constructive alternatives.  Remember that choosing the best card to lead is simply an educated guess, at best, all of the time.




- 25 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   





     Third Hand Play:  An old adage does exist which advocates the use of third hand playing high.  In  general, however, there are too many exceptions to enable one to develop a specific set of rules for third hand play, nor is it always appropriate to follow this narrow course of third hand always playing high.  Rather than to memorize and exclusively use this old axiom, one should alternatively utilize information gleaned from partner’s lead, dummy’s hand, possible layout of the suit in question, the contract; etc., in order to better determine the actions of partner in third position relative to partner’s opening lead. Third hand play is extremely important for, in simplistic terms, it is the last card your side will play to the trick, and it can, therefore, have profound significance. 


          1. Third hand high:   In each of the following layouts, your partner has led the 5 and the 3 is  

              played from the dummy.   Which card must be played by the third hand in order to ensure the    

              maximum number of tricks to which the defender’s are entitled?


                  73                      983                      A83

                     KJ652       A84         Q1065        K72          Q975             K106

                 Q109                     AJ4                      J42


          Conclusion:  Usually speaking, under most circumstances, the third hand defender is most     

                                        effective when contributing the highest card available when trying to

                                        maximize the number of tricks taken by the defenders.


2.      Only as High as is Necessary:  Playing the highest card available in Third Hand Play is not 

      always the best play.  Keep in mind the objective which must remain to promote cards in 

      partner’s hand by playing only the highest card necessary to do the job.  In the following card 

      layouts, partner again leads the 5 followed by the 3 from dummy.   What card would you play

      and what inferences might partner deduce from your play?


                A93                   J83                   A63

             5       QJ10          5       KQ10         5         KJ10


                Conclusion:  Third hand should, under all conditions, play only as high as is necessary, 

                                   playing the lower of touching cards when there is a choice to do so.  Before 

                                  deciding how high is necessary, however, the defender must look at both

                                  partner’s lead as well as the cards of the dummy.


3.      Trapping High Cards:   When deciding how high a card to play, third hand must try to 

                 visualize the entire layout of the suit.  Not being able to see either partner’s hand or declarer’s,  

                 it is often helpful to consider the bidding and the logic of the situation.   Remember, the       

                 general idea is to try to keep dummy’s high cards trapped whenever possible.   In each of the 

                 following layouts, which card must you play in third seat in order to enable your side tot 

                 eventually take the maximum number of tricks in the suit shown.


                  Q73                   J83                      K3

            K965       AJ4               Q765        K102        J9754      A106

                  1082                  A94                      Q82


             Conclusion:  When partner leads a low card, he/she is probably leading from an honor.  

                        Try to visualize partner’s holding and, whenever possible, keep dummy’s high cards 


- 26 -      


4.      When Partner Leads a High Card:   So far we have addressed the situation where partner has led a low card which usually necessitates third hand playing high.   When Partner leads a high card, however, third hand may not need to play high, especially when there is an honor

      needing to be trapped in dummy.   In each of the following examples, partner has led the Jack

      and dummy has put in the 4.   How should the defenders play the suit such that all the tricks to

      which they are entitled are secured?


           K74                     Q84                      754

    J1085       AQ6                 J1095        A63          KJ109       A63

                 932                     K72                      Q82


                         Conclusion:  When partner leads a high card, you may be capable of trapping a high card

                         in the dummy by playing a low card rather than third hand high.   On the other hand, if

                         there are only small cards in the dummy, you may have to overtake partner’s high card if

                         there be an opportunity of potentially trapping a high card in declarer’s hand.


5.      Unblocking:   There are times when it is appropriate for third hand to play high even though it might, at first glance, seem unnecessary.   One of these conditions is when the suit would

      otherwise block; i.e., one would not be able to lead the suit back for partner to take his/her

      winners.  In the following examples partner has led the underlined card with dummy   

      following as indicated.   Assuming partner to have no other outside entries except for the suit  

      shown, which card must third hand play in order for the defenders to maximize their tricks?


                      942              A92              A83               A94

      KQJ75    A3     QJ1063    K4     J10965    KQ2     Q10752    K3

           1086             875               74                J86


       Conclusion:  In order to avoid stranding partner’s winners, third hand must sometimes 

             play a high card, even though it is not needed to win the trick.   The goal must rather be to

             maintain a small card with which to lead the same suit back to partner.


6.      Putting it all Together:   Partner has led the indicated card.   Which card should third hand 

      play so as to maximize the defender’s trick-taking capacity, and why?


    1083         A83          AQ3         Q83          K3         843

   4    KJ5     6   QJ2     10   KJ4     4   KJ10     2  AJ4     Q    K7



CONCLUSION:   The general guideline dictates that third hand usually plays high.   Before automatically contributing your highest card, however, take a look at both the specific card which partner has led as well as the cards visible in the dummy.   One must play a card that is no higher than is necessary while, at the same time, attempting to entrap any high card in the dummy’s hand.  At the same time, one must guard against blocking the suit by being left with the highest card in the suit when partner is waiting to take his/her remaining winners.











      - 27 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   





     Second Hand Play:   Declarer has led a card from his/her hand or from dummy.   You, second in position to the lead must decide whether to play high or low.   Most of the time, the second hand player plays low allowing his/her partner, who plays last to the trick, to try to win the trick as cheaply as is possible.   A popular maxim, “Second hand plays low”, sets forth the idea that there is no need to waste your high card on one of declarer’s low cards, better to wait until declarer plays a high card which you can then capture.   On the other hand, if declarer plays an honor, another maxim, “cover an honor with an honor”, more likely applies.   When to administer these principals is most useful when considering second hand play.   One must consider the conditions under which they arise as well as their exceptions.


1.      When Declarer Leads a Small Card:   Defender’s high cards are best utilized not only when they take a trick, but additionally when they can be preserved to capture one of declarer’s high cards at the same time.   An old bridge adage proclaims, “Aces are meant to take Kings, Kings to take Queens; etc.”    For this reason, if declarer plays a small card, it usually works out best for the player in second position to also play a small card.   In the following examples, declarer leads the 2 towards dummy.  How many tricks will declarer take if you, in second position, play low, versus those likely taken should you mistakenly play high?


              DUMMY                      DUMMY                    DUMMY      

         Q75                        AQJ                      A109

    YOU       PARTNER          YOU       PARTNER        YOU       PARTNER

    K84        A1093           K84       1097653        K84        J753

       DECLARER                  DECLARER                  DECLARER

         J62                        2                        Q62     


         0;1                       2;3                       2;3


        Conclusion:  By playing second hand low, you usually make your side’s best effort to   

        conserve its high cards so that they not only take tricks but also capture the opponent’s high

        cards at the same time.


2.      When Dummy Leads a Small Card:   In the first exercise, the second hand had the advantage of 

      seeing the cards in the dummy such that the decision as to what to play was assisted by this 

      advantage.   When a small card is led from dummy, this advantage does not exist for the second

      hand player since declarer’s hand is concealed.  The concept of second hand playing low,

      however, is still applicable and, indeed, still effective.  Look at the following examples!  Notice

      the one trick difference (added for the defense, subtracted from declarer) by playing low in the

      second seat.


              DUMMY                      DUMMY                    DUMMY      

        8732                        J82                      A82

  PARTNER     YOU            PARTNER     YOU        PARTNER       YOU

          6         Q95             A1064      Q95          K76         Q95

       DECLARER                  DECLARER                  DECLARER

        AKJ104                      K73                     J1043


     Conclusion:  Whether a small card is led from declarer’s hand or from dummy, it is usually

         best for second hand to play low thus conserving the defenders’ high cards.   Partner plays

         last so you usually do not have to worry about declarer winning the trick too cheaply.




- 28 -    


3.      Splitting Honors:   Previously we have observed that when declarer leads a small card, it is  

      generally good advice for second hand to play low.  There are, however, several exceptions to

      this general principle.   The first of these deals with the play of the lowest of several sequenced or

      nearly-sequenced honors to stop declarer from winning a trick to which he/she would otherwise

      not be entitled.   This is called splitting honors and this principle takes precedence over the

      normal “second-hand-low” maxim.   In each of the following, declarer leads the 2 towards the

      dummy. Which card must second hand play in order to ensure all the tricks to which the

      defenders are entitled?


             DUMMY                    DUMMY                   DUMMY

          Q95                      A96                     KQ9

     YOU       PARTNER        YOU       PARTNER        YOU       PARTNER

     J104       A873          Q103        874         J104       A753

        DECLARER                 DECLARER                DECLARER

          K62                     KJ52                      862


      Conclusion:  Split your honors on defense rather than play second hand low.   It will ensure 

            that your team get all the tricks to which you are entitled.   On the other hand, if there are no

            tricks for you to promote for your side, or if it may cost you a trick to split your honors, revert 

            to the general principle of playing second hand low.


4.      Covering Honors:   Another circumstance where a defender in second position does not play low 

      occurs when declarer plays a high card.  Now the guideline of covering an honor with an honor

      comes into play; i.e., playing a high card on top of declarer’s high card in order to promote your

      side’s lower cards.   In each of the following layouts, how many tricks will declarer get if you

      cover the Queen played from dummy, and how many, if you do not cover?


           DUMMY             DUMMY               DUMMY             DUMMY           

      Q65               Q65                 Q65              QJ1065


  7432     KJ10     J1074    K32       10874     K32      874        K32

    DECLARER          DECLARER            DECLARER          DECLARER

      A98                A98                AJ9                A9


      1,2               1,2                 2,3                5,4


Conclusion:  When you know or believe you can promote a trick for your side, it is a good

idea to cover an honor with an honor.  When it does not look as if there might be anything to

promote, you stand a better chance of getting a trick by playing second hand low.















- 29 -


5.      Covering Second Honors:   Sometimes you will be presented with the situation in which there are a couple of touching high cards from which declarer has led.  In this instance, it is usually best to wait until the last high card is led before covering.  In the following examples should you cover the first honor led from dummy or not?


           DUMMY                      DUMMY                   DUMMY

           J108                       J103                    J103

     PARTNER     YOU           PARTNER        YOU        PARTNER      YOU

      Q97        K642           K762         Q95         7654        KQ9

         DECLARER                   DECLARER                 DECLARER

            A53                       A84                      A82


             No                           No                         Yes


          Conclusion:   When there are two or more honors, it is usually best to wait to cover the last 

                     honor, unless you can afford to cover more than one of them.


6.   Putting it all Together:   When you are second hand to play, and a small card is led, it is generally

      best to play a low card.   When a high card is led, it usually works out best to cover with a higher

      card.   In the following examples, which card do you play when declarer leads the indicated card?


1)      DUMMY          2)      DUMMY            3)     DUMMY

         Q83                    KJ4                     J84

      YOU                    YOU                      YOU

   AJ5                    Q73                      K62   

                          DECLARER               DECLARER                 DECLARER

                6                      5                       3


                             5 (low)                                    3 (low)                                        2 (low)





             4)        DUMMY           5)       DUMMY             6)      DUMMY

                                 Q83                     K                     A103

                   YOU                    YOU                      YOU

         J1097                  A642                     K75 

                             DECLARER               DECLARER                DECLARER

                 4                      9                        J


             9 (Split)            Ace (Take King)          King (Cover)


         Conclusion:   Defenders afford themselves the best chance in situations in which they are

                   uncertain what to do by playing a low card as second hand if a low card is led, and by

                   covering an honor with an honor if a high card is led.             














      - 30 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                    






      Signaling” is the language of defensive play.   It is the method by which Defenders legitimately exchange information about the make‑up of their hands.  It is central and crucial to the defense being able to collect the greatest number of tricks to which they are entitled, to limit Declarer’s tricks, and to potentially even set the contract at hand.   Defenders are normally disadvantaged because they lack the ability to make decisions based upon seeing each others cards.   The ability, therefore, of each Defender to be capable of describing his/her hand through specific carding becomes paramount.   Defenders have the ability to utilize one from any number of various methods of Signaling.   Standard, Upside-Down, Odd-Even, and Laventhal Discards are amongst the major systems used today.    Each partnership must choose from amongst these various available systems, and Declarer, at the start of any hand, may inquire from the Defenders as to which of the various systems of signaling they employ.   No matter which system Defenders use, however, they share with each other, via the cards they play, the following four main categories of information during the signaling process:



Four Categories of Standard Defensive Signaling:


         (1) Attitude Signals Regarding a Specific Suit: (The signaling which evidences whether Partner wishes to encourage a continuation of that suit already led, or, conversely, to discourage a continuation of the suit referenced),


         (2) Count Signals Regarding a Particular Suit: (The signaling as to the number of actual cards one holds in a specific suit referenced),


         (3) Suit Preference Signals for a Particular Suit: (The preferential signaling as to which suit you desire partner to lead at his/her next available opportunity),


         (4) The Play of Specific Cards at Specific Times: (Specific Carding which have unambiguous messaging under Specific Circumstances when played at specific times).


      The planning and sharing of such information as outlined above is central to the ability of the Defenders to properly decide which suits to play, and which suits to avoid playing; which suits to keep, and which suits to discard; whether or not to continue a suit already played, or to switch.   There are times, however, when a Defender may not wish to signal when he/she feels that Partner cannot use such information to the team’s advantage, or when he/she feels that the information be better withheld from Declarer.   When it is advantageous to share such information between Defenders, however, the standard techniques employed to accomplish these goals are herein presented as follows:


1.  Attitude Signals



1. The Lead by Partner of any New Suit when that suit is First Played: (Whether at the start of the hand on the first card led at the start of the play of the hand, or at anytime during the extended play of the hand subsequent to the opening lead)    When Partner first makes the lead of any new, as-yet-unled suit, whether against a Suit Contract or a No Trump Contract, it is important that the Partner of the one who leads do one of two things:





 - 30a -


               a) When the card led is other than an honor:   One’s Partner must be cognizant of playing 3rd hand high; i.e., the highest card necessary to beat Dummy, or to take the trick if one is capable of doing so without, potentially, giving up a future trick.   Such play of 3rd hand high is normal and customary.     


                                                                                      b) When the card led is an honor:  Here Partner must give an attitude signal (a preference or a dislike) as to whether or not he/she, from his/her personal perspective, desires a continuation of that suit just selected by Partner.  The play of an unnecessarily high card (the highest that one can afford without potentially giving up a future trick) shows a desire for that suit to be continued. (Example: Playing the 8 on Opener’s Ace when holding K862).   A High Card by played Partner is Encouraging!   (One should never use a potential trick‑taking card for such a signal.) (Example: Do not play the J from KJ82; rather, alternatively, the Eight)  Once given a positive attitude come‑on, Opener may, of course, exercise his/her own prerogative and refuse to continue the suit if he/she thinks there is a better alternative, or if the lead of that suit may be trumped by Declarer or by Dummy, and, therefore, a continuance be worthless.


Possible Reasons Why Partner may wish a Continuance of Opener’s Choice of Suits Led


                  a) Partner may wish to signal the capacity to trump a subsequent round of that suit.

                  b) Partner may wish to signal the ability to take a subsequent trick in that same suit (Ex. QXX).

                  c) Partner may wish to force Declarer to trump producing a so-called “uppercut” in Trumps in order to promote a later trump trick for the Defenders, or to shorten the numbers of Trump cards in either Declarer’s or Dummy’s hand.


            Alternatively, the play, by partner, of the lowest possible card to the trick shows a desire for Partner not to continue leading that suit which he/she previously played.  A Low card played by Partner is Discouraging!   Naturally, here too, Partner’s attempted dissuasion can be over-ruled if the original Partner who has led the suit feels an advantage for a continuance, notwithstanding any discouragement by his/her Partner.


 2.  When first Discarding (“Sluffing”) when showing out of any suit led: - The play of a high card as one’s first discard shows an interest (encouragement) in the suit discarded; and, alternatively, the play of a low card evidences a lack of interest (discouragement) in the particular suit discarded.

2.      Count Signals


1.  When Declarer first Leads a Suit, either from the Dummy or from Declarer’s hand: - When Declarer leads a suit, either from Dummy’s hand or from Declarer’s, each defender should give the other Count, which reflects the number of cards each possesses in the suit led by Declarer.   They each evidence an even number of cards (2, 4, 6, etc.) with a High-Low Signal; or an odd number of cards (1, 3, 5, etc.) with a Low-High Signal.   In this manner, each partner of the defending team is given information possibly important in the management of that suit in the later play of the hand.   Each Defender, receiving this count signal, may then calculate how many cards Declarer has in the suit deduced from the information received coupled with that which can be seen by him in Dummy and what he/she holds personally.


2.   When a Trump suit is played by Declarer in a suit Contract: - A Trump Echo: - In order to give an accurate count in the trump suit, the defenders should give a count signal, whenever possible as, occasionally, although, it is important not to play a card which might, otherwise, give up a trick.   The play of High-Low by either Defender evidences, specifically, three (3) pieces of trumps.   The play of Low-High by either Defender shows any number of Trumps other than three.





- 31 -


3.   When Partner is following suit to a suit led by his/her Partner, but when he/she cannot beat the card played by Dummy – Normally, when Partner leads a suit and you are playing third to the trick, it is customary for third hand to play high.   When the third hand player cannot beat a card played from Dummy, however, Partner should give a count as to the number of cards he/she holds:  a High-Low Signal shows an even number of cards held within that suit, a Low-High Signal evidences an odd number of cards held.


2a. Combined Attitude/Count Signals



1.  The Second Card with which one Plays to the Suit which Partner has Led: - The first card played to Partner’s lead of any suit gives an attitude signal as suggested above.  A high card encourages, a low card discourages.   If Partner chooses to continue with, or even without, your encouragement, however, it is important for you to then give count as to the number of cards remaining in the suit with which partners continues to play.   The second card which one follows to any suit led by Partner shows a count as to the remaining cards held, at that moment, within that suit led.    When one signals a High-Low Signal, it signifies an even number of cards remaining (2, 4, 6, etc.) when one signals a Low-High Signal, it signifies an odd number of cards remaining (1, 3, 5, etc.).   In this manner, partner is given information possibly important in the management of that suit in the later play of the hand.


3.      Suit Preference Signals



     Sometimes situations exist which call for neither attitude nor count signals.  Under these circumstances, one alternatively has a need to direct his/her Partner to lead a specific suit.   This is accomplished by a Suit Preference Signal.   There are two (2) circumstances where this type of signal has usage:


1.  When following suit to partner’s led suit but when it is clear to both you and to Partner that it would be useless for Partner to continue the suit. – There are occasions when Partner has led a suit where Dummy will be void in the suit Partner has led if it be led once again.  It is then therefore obvious that to continue leading that suit would be fruitless and a switch of attack is, therefore, appropriate.   When continuation of any suit led by Partner appears fruitless, the play to Partner’s trick of a high card asks for a switch to the higher-ranking of the two remaining suits (the two suits exclusive of the Trump suit), and the play of a low card asks for a switch to the lower-ranking of the two remaining suits.


2.      When Leading a Card that you know will be trumped by your Partner: - Such a signal is called a Suit Preference Signal or a “Laventhal” or a Secondary Suit Signal.   The assumption is that there are two suits from which to choose.   When giving a suit preference signal, a high card signals a preference for the higher of the two remaining suits, a low card signals a preference for the lower of the two remaining suits. 


The suit in which the signal is given does not count nor does a second suit (usually obvious), usually the trump suit.   One very useful opportunity to put the suit preference signal to work is in the situation where you are leading a suit for partner to ruff and desire to signal how Partner can re-enter your hand so as to proceed with yet an additional ruff.   In the following examples, partner has led what you have reason to believe is a singleton Club against a 4H contract.   After winning the Ace of Clubs which card do you return for partner to ruff from each of the subsequent hands?


- 31a -


1)   A964               2)  765                3) 1064

   104                    104                   A43

   765                    A964                  765

   A1062                  A1062                 A1062


1)   10 Clubs (Signaling a Spade Preference; i.e., Spades as opposed to Diamonds)

2)     2 Clubs (Signaling a Diamond Preference; i.e., Diamonds as opposed to Spades)

3)    6 Clubs (Signaling no preference for either, possibly encourages a Trump return)


4.  Signals Made with the Play of Specific Cards


1. The Play of Cards Held In Sequence


           a. When following suit to any trick being played, holding a grouping of cards in a sequence, one should play the lowest of the cards held in sequence (Example:  J109).    


           b. When leading a suit holding a sequence, however, one should always lead the highest card in the sequence (Example:  J109).


2. The Lead of either an Ace from an Ace-King combination or a King from an Ace-King combination – Either is acceptable, subject only to partnership understanding, but applies only to an opening lead.   When leading other than in an opening lead scenario, one always plays King from Ace-King or King from King-Queen.


3. The Lead of 4th Lowest from either of the top three (3) honors (A, K, or Q) – When leading a suit one should (subject to partnership agreement) lead low from any King or Queen (Example: K64 or Q653), and second highest from any holding absent a King or Queen

(Example: 10862).


            4.  The Lead of a Queen – The lead of a Queen is either from a Queen-Jack Sequence, else from a King Queen-Ten Sequence.  If Partner or the Dummy holds the Jack then it was, by a process of elimination, from the latter holding.    This special instance asks partner to dump the Jack so as to allow the Partner who has led the suit to continue without giving away a trick.  Absent Partner dumping the Jack, the player who has led the suit will discontinue the play of that suit until Partner can lead the suit back instead.   If Partner were to hold doubleton Ace, such a lead asks Partner to unblock the suit by playing the Ace on Opener’s Queen, then to return the suit.   If Partner does not hold the Jack, he/she is obliged to give attitude when the Queen is led.


      5.  The Lead of Partner’s Bid Suit – When leading Partner’s bid suit it is important for you to signal your holdings in that suit.   Top of a sequence; Top of a Doubleton; Low from Three or more to any Q, K, or A; or Second highest from Three small, then planning to play the highest and then the lowest (“MUD” – Middle-Up-Down) are all recognized as correct.


6.   Leads against a No Trump Contract – Usually 4th Best from Longest and Strongest, but:

a.       When Leading an Ace – calls for Partner to play his/her highest card to the trick.

b.      When Leading a King – Calls for Partner to show attitude.

c.       When Leading a Queen – Calls for Partner to drop the Jack if held; otherwise to give attitude


- 32 -


7.   Playing to a trick where Partner has led and you cannot beat the Dummy – Naturally, third hand plays high, and so if you can beat the card played from Dummy, one is expected to do so, and even to normally play one’s highest card.  If, however, the third hand player cannot beat the Dummy he/she is expected to:


a.       In a Suit Contract – To give Attitude


b.      In a No Trump Contract – To give Count



8.   When Breaking (Leading) a New Suit (Against either a suit or a NT contract) – Lead low from a Q, K, or A; else lead second highest, top of sequence, or top of any internal sequence:


  Q764     (or)     J83     (or)     QJ10X     (or)     KJ10X



9.   The Opening Lead of a Singleton or a Doubleton against a Suit Contract – Under certain optimum conditions, a lead of a Singleton (or, rarely, a Doubleton) can, oft times, produce a trick or more through a ruffing process.  Such plays work best when:


a)      When one holds a Trump Control

b)      When Partner has bid the suit in which one is short


       If on is short in a side suit, however, but holds four (4) or more trumps, it is, oft times, best not to attempt to ruff; rather to go for a forcing attack in order to play the defending teams long suit(s) so as to make Declarer ruff instead thereby causing him/her shorten Declarer’s trump holding and, as a result, to loose control of the hand.


           10.   The Lead of  Ace from any A-K combination Dependent upon partnership agreement, most teams on opening lead to any contract will play Ace from A-K and then King from A-K at any other time other than opening lead.  (Naturally, if only a doubleton A-K is held, the presence of a Doubleton is evidenced by total reversal of the above-mentioned sequences.)


















 - 33 -


                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                   





DEVELOPING DEFENSIVE TRICKS:    The methods by which defenders are able to secure all of the tricks in a suit to which they are entitled requires a cooperative and imaginative effort between the defenders since they are not capable of directly seeing their combined holdings in the suit in question.  They need, therefore, the ability to visualize what their partner holds from the bidding, the play, and partner’s signals.   Ultimately, defenders secure any tricks feasible by way of the same techniques as Declarer; namely, taking sure-tricks, and the promotion of additional winners through establishment of long suits, finessing, and trumping declarer’s winners.  


1.      Taking Sure Tricks:    Similar techniques used by declarer; namely, playing a high card from the short side first, and unblocking, and the added techniques of attitude and count signaling, comprise the methods by which a defending team can maximize the sure tricks to which they are entitled.   In each of the following holdings which card would be led by your partner against a No Trump contract, and how would you work along with partner in a cooperative effort to take all of the tricks in the suit?


1)         DUMMY            2)        DUMMY                      3)         DUMMY

           73                         64                         87

  PARTNER      YOU           PARTNER       YOU         PARTNER        YOU

   QJ104       AK2            KQ105        A72          AQJ92          K4 

              DECLARER                    DECLARER                  DECLARER

         9865                        J983                      10653


1) Q; Overtake with the   2) Q; Encourage with        3) Q; Overtake with the K            

       A or K, lead the          the 7                       leading back the 4

       second honor followed

       by a low card


        Conclusion:   Careful teamwork must be exhibited by the defenders in order to maximize their

               sure trick capabilities.  This especially includes avoidance in blocking of a suit via overtaking

               partner’s honor, or giving an encouraging signal so that partner can lead a small card over to

               partner’s high card.


2.      Promoting Tricks:   Usually the defenders do not have enough sure tricks to defeat a contract immediately from the outset but must, alternatively, develop additional tricks through promotion.   In the following holdings, against a No Trump contact, Partner leads the card indicated.   Which card will you play opposite Partner’s lead, and assuming that declarer wins trick one with the Ace, which card will Partner lead when he/she once again, regains the lead; and why?


1)         DUMMY            2)        DUMMY                      3)         DUMMY

           54                        A32                         75

  PARTNER      YOU           PARTNER       YOU         PARTNER        YOU

   QJ93        1072           QJ1065        K7          Q9832         J104 

              DECLARER                    DECLARER                  DECLARER

         AK86                        984                       AK6


1)   7;3                    2)  K;J(or 10)              3)  10;2


          Conclusion:  Defenders must work together in order to promote as many tricks feasible.   Each  

               must attempt to imagine what his/her partner holds from the cars played and the signals given. 

               Only then can they maximize promotion of their potential winners.




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3.      Establishing Long Suits:   Long suits are a wonderful source of tricks for both declarer and defenders, especially in No Trump contracts.   The following through with a continuation of the long suit led oft times leads to the development of the suit.  Towards this endeavor, it is many times necessary for the partnership to maintain an entry in their combined long suit so as to preserve communication between their two hands.   You are defending against a No Trump contract and partner leads the card indicated in the suit you have bid.    Assuming no outside entries, which card do you play to the first trick, and which card do you play to the second time the suit is led?


1)         DUMMY            2)        DUMMY                      3)         DUMMY

          QJ10                       QJ10                        KQJ

  PARTNER      YOU           PARTNER       YOU         PARTNER        YOU

    94       AK8632            A53        K9642         1082          A943 

              DECLARER                    DECLARER                  DECLARER

          75                         87                        765


1)   8;K (or A)             2)   9;2                   3)   9;3


    Conclusion:   Long suits provide an excellent source of tricks for defenders if (a) they be

                            persistent in promotion of the suit, and (b) they attempt to visualize the complete

                            layout of the suit , maintaining entries between the two hands, ducking when

                            necessary, taking losses early, and, in general, keeping the lines of communication 




4.      The Defensive Finesse:   The thrill of success when taking a finesse can be just as rewarding to the defense as to declarer, because the two defenders cannot see each other’s hand, however, as declarer can see Dummy’s, they must exhibit some degree of optimism, watch each other’s signals, and constantly look for clues to guide their attempts to entrap declarer’s high card(s).   Against a suit contract, which card would you lead in each of the example layouts?   Which card would partner play to the first trick assuming a low card is played from dummy, and which defender must lead the suit next if the defenders are to take all the tricks to which they are entitled?


     1)           DUMMY          2)       DUMMY          3)      DUMMY

          A54                     732                    K65             

        YOU    PARTNER           YOU    PARTNER            YOU    PARTNER   

     KQ10     8762            QJ95     864           QJ107    A83      

        DECLARER                DECLARER                DECLARER        

          J93                     AK10                    942               


1)   K;2;Partner        2)    Q;4;Partner         3)    Q;8;You


  Conclusion:   The defenders are capable of utilization of finessing techniques just as

                            effectively as declarer.   To be most effective, however, they must both be alert

                            to each other’s signals and attempt to imagine what cards partner might have

                            that would have prevented him from continuing the suit if your signal prevents

                            him/her from continuation of the suit, even though you know he/she would like          

                            the suit continued.








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5.      Leading Through Strength:   In order to maximize the number of defensive tricks available in finessing situations, the defense must have the partner lead which is the singular one of the partnership which allows the lead to pass through the strength of declarer or Dummy.   In the following examples, will you or your partner need to lead the suit in order for the defense to secure all the tricks to which they would be entitled?


          1)           DUMMY          2)       DUMMY          3)      DUMMY

              753                    AJ10                    872             

            YOU    PARTNER           YOU    PARTNER            YOU    PARTNER   

         K842     J109             973     KQ64          AQ94    1063      

           DECLARER                 DECLARER                DECLARER        

                AQ6                      852                    KJ5


1)   Partner              2)    You                 3)    Partner


Conclusion:   To help visualizing finessing situations on defense, it helps to keep the guideline of leading through strength and up to weakness in mind.



6.      Trumping Declarer’s Winners:   Another way the defenders can produce tricks is to trump declarer’s winners.  Cooperation between the two defenders is essential so as to get more than one ruff.  In order to accomplish this, cooperation coupled with a suit preference signal is critical.  In the following hand notice which card partner returns after taking the opening lead of 3D against a 4-Spade contract. 


                        YOU                PARTNER

               J85                  3

                               10752                J84

               3                    A10962

               Q9865                A432


            Conclusion:   Defenders oft times need to cooperate when trying to ruff declarer’s winners.  

                                   Both need to remain aware as to what is going on and must effectively work

                                    together using entries available between the two hands.





















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                                                                  INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                    





INTERFERING WITH DECLARER:    In previous lessons we have seen how Defenders work together in order to take the maximum number of tricks through promotion, suit establishment, finessing, and trumping.   Other techniques are available to the defenders which, when they work together as a partnership, assist them in preventing declarer from getting tricks to which he/she are not entitled.



1.      The Defensive Holdup:   Declarer often needs to establish tricks in his/her long suit.   Once he/she has established winners in a suit, he/she requires an entry in order to get to them.   Defenders cannot alter the cards declarer has been dealt; but they can try to prevent declarer from using the cards to best advantage.   In each of the following examples, declarer has no other entries to dummy other than the cards in the suit shown.   To limit declarer to the minimum number of tricks, which cards would you and your partner play on the first trick assuming declarer were to lead the 10?   Which cards would you and partner play on the second trick if declarer were to lead a small card to dummy’s Queen?


1)          DUMMY       2)          DUMMY        3)          DUMMY


     73            A42      A42            763        86            K743

          DECLARER               DECLARER                   DECLARER

            1065                    105                       105


1) 7&2; 3&4              2)  2&3; A&6             3)  8&3; 6&K



            Conclusion:   The defensive holdup play is one method the defenders can use in order to prevent

            declarer from getting any undeserved tricks.   Success of operation of this method depends upon

            cooperation between the defenders; i.e., one of them giving count while the other rejects his/her

            winner until declarer is playing his last card in the suit.   If no other outside entries are available

            to declarer, his established additional winners are, thus, stranded.



2.      Attacking Entries:   If, unlike as in exercise 1, declarer holds an outside entry which will eventually serve as transportation to winners that are being developed,  defenders must work together so as to eliminate the outside entry before declarer is ready to use it.  In each of the following, you are on lead.   Which card would you lead to prevent declarer from later using the suit shown as an entry to the dummy?



1)          DUMMY       2)          DUMMY        3)          DUMMY

   PARTNER   A7    YOU     PARTNER   K73   YOU      PARTNER   KQ2   YOU

    1083           KJ42     10984          A62        875           AJ104           

          DECLARER                DECLARER                  DECLARER

           Q965                     QJ5                       963


1)  King                 2)  2 (or 6)             3)  Jack (or 10)



     Conclusion:  When you can see that declarer is planning to develop a long suit and may have

                                  some entry problems, it is often a good idea to drive out any entries in the hand with

                                  the long suit before Declarer has established his/her winners.


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3.      Watching Your Discards:   Small cards in any suit are usually assumed to be of no value.  The

      unwary defender, thus, unthinkingly may tend to throw them away, preferring to hold on to higher

      cards in other suits instead.   Sometimes, however, these, seemingly inconsequential small cards,

      make the difference between success and failure for the defenders.   How do the defenders know

      which suits to guard?   Often it is obvious when you see the cards held in dummy.   In each of the

      following layouts, how many tricks does declarer get if you unwittingly discard a small card in the

      suit shown, and how many does declarer get if you do not?


1)          DUMMY       2)          DUMMY        3)           DUMMY

   PARTNER  AK73   YOU     PARTNER  A972   YOU       PARTNER   KQ4   YOU

     J9           10642       QJ           1063        62          J10953           

          DECLARER                 DECLARER                  DECLARER

            Q85                      K854                       A87


1) 4;3                  2)  4;3               3)  3;3


      Conclusion:   A card as low as a 2 can have as much power as an Ace.   When discarding, try and 

            keep the same length in a suit as you can see in the dummy or as you imagine might be held by

            declarer.  The defending partners must share the responsibility for guarding all of the suits.   You

            never want, as a defender, to be left with high cards in one suit while declarer is taking tricks with

            small cards in another suit in which you have made discards.



4   Defending Against Finesses:    One of the methods by which Declarer gets the extra tricks he/she needs

     is by finessing.   Many times the defenders can do something about this.   In each of the following

     layouts, you are defending against a No Trump contract.  Declarer leads a small card toward Dummy’s

     Jack.   Which card should partner play and which card should you play in order to give declarer the

     most difficulty?


1)          DUMMY       2)          DUMMY        3)            DUMMY


    A943           1062      1087          K63         85              KQ          

          DECLARER                 DECLARER                  DECLARER

             85                       954                      7632


1) 3;2                  2)  7;3               3)  5;Q (OR K)


Conclusion:   Keep declarer guessing as to how to play a suit.   Do not reveal any information that will assist declarer in deciding how to play the cards in a particular suit unless you have to.   The more guesses you give declarer, the more opportunities declarer has to go wrong.















- 38 -


INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE                                                    





MAKING A PLAN - Defender’s plan is similar in structure to Declarer’s plan.   The same four steps of: (1) Pausing to consider one’s objective, (2) Looking at winners and losers, (3) Analyzing alternatives, and (4) Now putting it together, (PLAN) all apply.  


(1)   Defender’s Objectives:  Obviously, to take enough tricks in order to defeat the contract, or at least to limit Declarer to the minimum number of tricks; i.e., the fewest overtricks.

(2)   Looking at Winners and Losers:  Since the defenders cannot see each others hands and thus do not have an exact knowledge of the combined holdings of the defense, the exact number of winners and losers is difficult to assess.   They can, however, start by making an estimate and then revise it as more information is gleaned.   Remember, Aces in suits other than trump can, sometimes, not take a trick.

(3)   Analyzing Alternatives:  Here the defense must use its collective imagination.  Oft times they will have to visualize the possible layout of the suits to see opportunities to develop tricks through promotion, finesse, etc.   As the play progresses, alternatives for the defenders should become clearer.

(4)   Putting It All Together:  Here the defending team must learn to work together to insure that they are both headed in the same direction.   While the defender’s initial plans may differ, they should eventually merge into a common pathway as the hand is played out.   The defenders must be more flexible than declarer.  They must be prepared to change their collective plans as the play progresses and more information is shared between them.


1.      Before the Dummy Comes Down:  Having little to go on, other than the bidding just concluded and the thirteen cards held, the defender on lead must make some preliminary assessment as to where tricks might eventually come from and then make the best initial estimate as to the best lead. 


        Exercise 1:  You (West) are on lead            YOU     2C/2H/P

                 against a 4H contract            P/P/P                 P/P/P             

                 with the bidding having                   1H/2D/4H   

                 proceeded as shown.  


           10983         You are not exactly sure where your tricks will come                

                       K5         from. Your KH will win a trick if declarer holds the A.

           AQ3        Since declarer has bid diamonds, you hope the K is held

           J642       by declarer and either partner will eventually be on

                      lead so to trap the King or perhaps declarer will take

the losing finesse. Your best lead, therefore, is to lead the 10S in 

hopes of either developing a Spade trick, or at the very least, of not

giving a trick away. 


Conclusion:   Although your plan may be very rough until you have seen the dummy, it is still

worthwhile developing an interim plan by beginning to form a picture of the missing hands in an

effort to avoid stepping off in the wrong direction with the opening lead.   The details of the best

defense will likely come from seeing the dummy coupled with partner’s signals.   At least you will

be starting on a sound basis.






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2.      After Dummy Comes Down:   Once the dummy has been tabled, and partner has played to the first

      trick, the defenders now have additional information on which to base their collective plan.   There

      will likely still be some unknowns, and the defense must be alert so as to be prepared and flexible

      enough to modify its plan, but as the play progresses, the individual presumed plans of the two

      defenders must merge into a single unified collectively orchestrated strategy.


          Exercise 2:  You (East) hold the                      1D/1NT/P

                 following against a 4S               P/P            P/P/P             

                 contract with the bidding                  1S/4S   

                 as shown. Partner leads the 2H.


               DUMMY                       You would plan the defense as

                K5                       follows. Partner has led the KH from

                1075            YOU      a presumed KQ??? holding.  Desirous   

                KQJ7            842      of a diamond lead you would overtake    

                AJ73            A964     partner’s K with the A, play your

       KH                       A        singleton AD then return to partner’s

                                108652   QH awaiting partner to give you a 

                                         ruff by returning a diamond for you           

                                         to trump.


     Conclusion:   After dummy appears and partner plays, more information is available to the 

          defenders.   Be sure to look at the whole picture before automatically following any preconceived

          guideline such as automatically returning your partner’s lead.