~Playing Card Combinations #2


The cards held by declarer and dummy may be divided in any number of ways, and each particular arrangement may have its own unique way of playing the cards to generate tricks for declarer.
You may need to merely take sure tricks in a suit. To do so, you may have to consider several factors:
~entries: you may need to preserve or create entries in order to access the maximum number of tricks.
~order of play: The order of play may determine how many tricks you can take in a suit.
~give up possession: you may need to lose the lead to an opponent one or more times in order to create winners.

Consider these card combinations:

Dummy: AK7

Declarer: Q32

Dummy: AK7

Declarer: Q3

Dummy: AQJ

Declarer: K

Dummy: A43

Declarer: K

(1) With an equal number of cards in each hand, the high cards can be played in any order–just don’t play a high card on a high card.

(2) Here, you must avoid winning the first trick in Dummy; otherwise, you will be stranded in Declarer’s hand and must use a side-suit entry (if such an entry exists) to return to the Dummy for the third trick.

(3) Here, you must overtake the K in Declarer’s hand with the A in Dummy to most effectively take all three tricks.

(4) You cannot afford to overtake a high card from Declarer’s hand: you need a side-suit entry.

Principles of Taking Sure Tricks:
~Watch your entries when taking sure tricks:
~Play the high cards from the short suit first.
~Overtake the last card played from the short suit unless such a play will cost you a trick.

Establishing Long Suits

With few or no high cards in a suit, you may still be able to establish tricks after losing 2-3 tricks in the suit.


With a 3-2 split (probability: 68%), South can establish three winners in the long suit.

There is an easy manner of determining how any number of missing cards is likely to split: missing an even number of cards in a suit, expect them to split unevenly, but as evenly as possible otherwise; for example, six missing cards are most likely to split 4-2. Missing an odd number of cards in a suit, expect them to split as evenly as possible; for example, expect five missing cards to split 3-2.

Dummy:  9872     K9432    AKQ32

Declarer: T6543    A75        75

(1) You expect a 3-1 split. After losing three tricks, you expect to have two winners remaining.
(2) You expect a 3-2 split. You expect to lose one trick and to win four tricks. If you have no outside entries to Dummy, you should lose the one trick on the first or second lead of that suit. With a side-suit entry, win the A and then finesse the 9, if possible. If West follows suit on the second lead, cover the card West plays as cheaply as possible.
(3) You expect a 4-2 split and one loser. If the playing situation demands five tricks in the suit, play the A, K, & Q and hope for a 3-3 split. If you have the flexibility to do so, duck the first lead in the suit.

When establishing long suits, do not be afraid of giving up the lead. Your number of Side-suit entries may dictate how you play the suit.
Promoting Tricks

Once higher cards are played, lower cards become winners. Look at the following example:


Lead the J (or the T, 9, or 8 ) from the South hand and play low from the North hand unless West plays the Q. There is a 75% chance that two missing honors will be in opposite hands or that both will be in the West hand. The opposition bidding, if any, may cause you to evaluate the opportunity differently. If West and does not cover the J, play the K. West is likely to cover holding the Q but to duck holding the A.

If you hold the majority of cards in a given suit, you should be able to create tricks by promoting your medium cards in the suit.

Principles of promoting medium honors:
~Do not fear giving up the lead to the opponents.
~Play the high card from the short suit first.
~Overtake the last card played from the short suit (if the situation warrants such play.

The Finesse

A finesse is an attempt to find a missing high card in a favorable position and to trap that high card by leading a lower card toward a higher card in partner’s hand. A finesse has a 50% chance of success.

Expert players like a better chance of success than 50% and often exhaust other options (such as establishing long suits or ruffing/cross-ruffing) before trying the finesse. Look at the following example:


Declarer will lead the J from the South. If West plays the K, North will win with the A and play the QT. With a 3-2 split, Declarer will win all the tricks. If West does not cover the J, play low. With any 3-2 split, Declarer will win either four or five tricks in the suit.


Declarer needs two tricks from this suit. A typical finesse cannot possibly work with this holding; however, Declarer can win two tricks in the suit if East holds the K in the suit (a 50% chance). Lead a low card from the North hand. If East holds the K, you will win two tricks.

Principles of Finessing :
~Lead a high card you hope will win the trick–if you can afford to have the high card covered
~Lead toward a high card that you hope will win the trick–if you cannot afford to have that high card covered.
~When missing the Q, finesse when missing five cards, but play the A and then the K if missing only four cards. Note: statistically, you will get a 3-1 split 50% of the time and a 2-2 split only 40% of the time. The opposition bidding or card-counting may give you some insight as to how four missing cards may split.


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