Play of the Hand

Print Friendly

There are numerous techniques and strategies to the play of the hand, such as…

Neil Timm
Print Friendly

Extracted from: 2/1 Game Force A Modern Approach by NEIL H. TIMM, PH.D

There are numerous techniques and strategies to the play of the hand, such as safety plays, elimination (end) plays, finesses, squeezes, avoidance plays, and more. Two basic principles are to use of the Rule of 12 to guide one on making finesses and the dummy reversal play .

Play of the Hand—Always have a Plan!

You (sitting south) and your partner reach the final contract of 3NT. As south, you bid 1NT and partner bids 3NT. Opening lead is the queen of clubs. Can you make the contract?

North
AJ2
954
KJ72
K76
 
South
K96
A873
A54
A94

Many players may go down with this hand because they do not plan their play. The auction was simple and did not reveal anything. All the opponents know is that dummy is not going to have a four-card major and ruffing values.

With the lead of the queen of clubs, your first problem is: Are you going to win the first trick, or are you going to duck the club?
Clearly, you do not want a heart shift that could be more dangerous than the club threat, so you must win the first trick. Now, you have to consider which hand do you win the trick? Obviously, you want to be in your hand and lead toward dummy. You have five fast tricks outside the diamond suit. How are you going to tackle diamonds? YOU DO NOT KNOW YET! It depends on how many tricks you need in the suit! You must win the trick in your hand and lead a spade to the jack. Next, how will you continue if that loses? Do you play the same way if the finesse wins? NO.

If the finesse loses, you need four diamond tricks, and the only way to get them is to take the finesse and hope the suit splits evenly. But if the spade finesse wins, you only need three tricks from diamonds and can afford a safety play. You would cash the king of diamonds and lead a diamond to the ace. If the queen does not appear, play the jack. That lands the contract any time the queen drops, the break 3-3, or west holds the queen. Great odds! The complete deal follows.

  AJ2
954
KJ72
K76
 
Q53
K6
10983
QJ102
  10874
QJ102
Q6
85
  K96
A873
A54
A94
 

Let’s consider one more example from the book “Winning Declarer Play” (2013) by Dorothy Hayden Truscott and updated by Gail Greenberg, page 31. The contract is 3NT and the opening lead is the Jack of Hearts and you are sitting south. How do you make your contract?

North
AKJ63
AQ2
K10
A54
 
South
74
K75
J9642
K83

Many players may go down with this hand because they do not plan their play. How do you proceed? First count your tricks; you can see seven; two Spades, three Hearts, and two Clubs. You must develop two more tricks. To develop spades, they must be 3-3. The only source of tricks is diamonds. However, you must knock out both the Ace and the Queen. Where do you take the lead and why? Most will play low and take the opening lead in their hand with the King of Hearts. Then leading a diamond to the King, you lose to the Ace. Now you only have one entry to your hand, the King of clubs, and West will still have the diamond queen to stop the suit. You have set up diamonds, but you cannot cash them since you do not have enough entries in your hand. The solution is to not take the Heart lead in your hand, but in Dummy. Now nothing can stop you from making your contract. When planning your hand, make sure you have the sufficient number of entries to make your contract. The first trick is the most critical. The entire deal follows.

  AKJ63
AQ2
K 10
A54
 
2
J1098
AQ85
9762
  Q10985
643
73
QJ10
  K74
K75
J9642
K83
 

Some Card Playing Rules: 

Rule of 7:  When playing NT contracts and having only one stopper in the suit led headed by the ace, one may use the Rule of 7 to decide how many times to hold up. Rule: subtract the total number of cards you and dummy hold in the suit from seven. This is the number of times you should hold up when the suit is led by the opponents. The rule is also used with trump contracts.

Let’s look at an example.

The bidding goes:

South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2NT Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
The End      

Opening Lead: J; the deal follows.

  AK
Q972
AQJ
K742
 
Q
J10854
K863
QJ5
  8543
K3
10752
A109
  J109762
A6
94
863
 

West led the Jack of hearts, covered by the queen and the king and taken by the ace. Declarer successfully finessed the jack of diamonds, cashed the ace and king of trumps but then had no fast return to his hand to draw the last rump and repeated the diamond finesse for a club discard. A low heart from the table was taken by West’s eight, and the switched to the queen of clubs quickly netted the defenders three tricks in the suit for down one. South’s error was made at TRICK ONE! The rule of seven says that one should duck the heart lead. Now there is no way West can gain the lead. Declarer wins the heart continuation, finesses the jack of diamonds and cashes the table’s top trumps, fetching the queen. A heart ruff is the entry to hand to draw the last trump and repeating the diamond finesse. Contract bid and made since the defenders are now limited to two clubs trick to go with the heart trick.

Rule of 9 (Ruff high or low)

Add the number of cards held in a suit between you and dummy to the number of rounds played. If that number is ten or more, a ruff is likely. For example, suppose you hold the AK in a suit and the number of cards in the suit is seven; then a ruff is likely after it is played a third time since 7+3=10; hence, ruff high!

Rule of 12

Consider the following three hands:

1. NORTH
 Q 10 3 2
2. NORTH
 J 7
3. NORTH
 Q 9 2
     
SOUTH
 A J 6 4
SOUTH
 A Q 10 5 4 3
SOUTH
 A J 10 4 3

One hand has a tenace missing the king. The opposite hand holds one or more cards equal in rank to the lower card(s) in the tenace. In #1, the A-J is the tenace and the Q-10 opposite is equal in rank to the jack, the lower card of the tenace. Given you intend to fi nesse for the king, how should you handle these combinations, assuming you have plenty of entries to the north hand?

The question is whether you should lead low from north to finesse or whether you can afford to lead a high card from dummy and let it run. The Rule of 12 provides the answer! It goes as: With 8, 9, or 10 cards in the two hands, if the number of cards in the two hands plus the cards in the sequence totals twelve or more, you can afford to lead a high card opposite the tenace. If the total is less than twelve, lead low to the tenace. WOW!

In hand #1, you have eight cards and three cards (Q, J, and 10) in the sequence, 8 + 3 = 11. Hence, it is not safe to lead the Q or the 10 from north. The correct play is to lead low from north to the jack in your hand. If the jack wins, return to north and then lead the queen or the 10 to repeat the finesse. The layout could be:

  Q 10 3 2  
9 8 7 5   K
  A J 6 4  

If you lead the queen or 10 on the fi rst round, you lose a trick. Start with a low card from north and you have all the tricks. If entries to the north hand are a problem, take the risk and lead an honor from north. The answer for #2 is the same: 8 cards + 3 in sequence = 11. Therefore, it is not safe to lead the jack on the first round. Again, king singleton would cost you a trick. As long as entries to north are comfortable, start by leading the 7 to your 10. If that wins, return to dummy and lead the jack for the second finesse.

In hand #3, you have 8 card + 4 in the sequence = 12. It is therefore safe to lead the queen or the 9 for the first-round finesse. Even with a singleton king onside, it does not harm you. Let’s consider a few more examples: hands 4, 5, and 6.

4. NORTH
 A Q 7 6
5. NORTH
 J 10 2
6. NORTH
 Q 2
     
 SOUTH
 J 5 4 3 2
 SOUTH
 A Q 7 6 5 4
 SOUTH
 A J 7 6 5 4 3

In hand #4, 9 cards + 2 in the sequence (Q and J) = 11. The Rule of 12 tells us that you should lead low on the first round, NOT the jack. Play low to the queen. If that wins, cash the ace. To lead the jack first would cost a trick if the king is singleton in this position:

  A Q 7 6 3 2  
K   10 9 8
  J 5 4  

In #5, 9 cards + 3 in the sequence = 12. Therefore, it is safe to lead the jack or the 10 first.

In # 6, 9 cards + 2 in the sequence = 11. It is not safe to lead queen first. If east has king singleton, playing the queen will cost you a trick while leading the 2 from north avoids losing a trick.

7. NORTH
 J 8 7 6 4
8. NORTH
 J 8 7 6 4
   
 SOUTH
 A Q 5 3 2
SOUTH
 A Q 5 3 2

#7: 10 + 2 = 12. It is safe to lead the jack. In fact, it makes no difference whether you start with the jack or lead low to the queen first.
 
#8: Again, you should lead the jack first. If east started with K-10-9, low to the queen leaves you with a loser, but jack first can avoid losing a trick.The Rule of 12 also applies when missing the king and queen as here.

9. NORTH
 10 9 5 2
10. NORTH
 10 7
11. NORTH
 9 4 2
     
 SOUTH
 A J 6 4
SOUTH
 A J 9 5 4 3
 SOUTH
 A J 10 6 5 3

In hands #9 and #10, 8 cards + 3 in the sequence = 11. Therefore, do not lead a high card on the first round. Start with a low card from north. To lead high from north costs a trick if East has a singleton honor. You can lead high from north for the second round finesse.

In #11, 9 card + 3 in the sequence = 12. It is safe to start with the 9 from north.

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

Comments are closed.