The Control of the Trump Suit by Tim Seres

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The vital point of technique illustrated here is not to ruff in …Foto: Tim Seres and Mary McMahon at the 2000 Gold Coast Congress

Tim Seres and Mary McMahon at the 2000 Gold Coast Congress
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The Sydney Morning Herald – Feb 7, 1971
Any worthwhile textbook about the play of the cards will have a chapter on the control of the trump suit. I was dealt a hand the other day in a rubber game which could have been taken straight from such a chapter:
9 2
K 6
J 10 9 7 5 3
7 4 2
 
A K Q J 10
A Q J 10 9
A 8
8

After a spade opening, I as South had to play a contract of four spades against the lead of the club king. At this point ask yourself how you would play the hand if the club suit were continued.

If you ruffed either the second or third round of clubs and drew two rounds of trumps, I’m afraid you threw away a certain rubber by going down in a cold contract. The outstanding trumps were divided 5:1 (as they will be about 15 per cent of the time when the defenders hold six of them) and by ruffing in the long trump hand you lost control of the trump suit. Here is the full deal:

  9 2
K 6
J 10 9 7 5 3
7 4 2
 
5
8 7 5 4 2
K 4
K Q 10 5 3
  8 7 6 4 3
3
Q 6 2
A J 9 6
  A K Q J 10
A Q J 10 9
A 8
8
 

See for yourself how the club ruff by South, followed by the normal play of drawing trumps, leads to disaster, as declarer is prevented from bringing in his heart tricks. East will ruff hearts and punch clubs, to defeat the contract.

The vital point of technique illustrated here is not to ruff in the long hand at all. Patiently discard on the second and third rounds of clubs. If a fourth round of clubs comes, ruff IN DUMMY with the spade nine.

It is then simply a matter of extracting all the trumps and claiming the rest of the tricks. It is an error to ruff in the South hand, because it forfeits control in trumps whenever one defender has five trumps.

This is another way of saying that one of the defenders will suddenly have more trumps than the declarer and because of this will be able to dictate the subsequent course of the play. If one hand has all six trumps of course the contract could probably never be made. What it really boils down to is that by playing the hand correctly, you will be sacrificing an overtrick about eight times out of 10. However, you will be making a game the two times in 10 when the greedy declarers are going down. These are good odds for the sensible declarer. If there is one thing I can say with confidence about bridge, it is that in the long run it pays to play a percentage game.

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