Surely a player of your bridge skills is familiar with most or all of the following tips you are about to read. But is your partner?
Tips 31-40 are defensive tips:
31. At notrump it is important to keep communications with partner’s hand. If partner’s lead looks like top of a doubleton, it’s usually a good idea not to take the first trick. Let partner keep that second card so when he gets in he can return your suit.
This tip comes in very handy when you have A-K-x-x-x-(x) with no outside entry. If you duck the first trick, partner will be able to return the suit when he gets in.
32. When declarer ignores a strong suit in dummy lacking one honor, assume declarer has the honor. If he doesn’t, that would be the first suit he would be leading – the rule of ‘Unattended Strong Suits’.
If you see something like the K-Q-J-10-(x) or A-Q-J-10-(x) in dummy and declarer plays other suits, assume declarer has the missing honor.
33. When there is a short side suit in dummy and declarer draws all of dummy’s trumps, the inference is that declarer doesn’t have any losers in that suit to ruff. Translation: It is safe to discard that suit.
34. When discarding, keep length parity with the dummy.
If dummy has four cards in a suit (A-K-Q-8), and you have four cards (9-4-3-2) one of which (the 9) could conceivably take a trick, be careful about discarding from that suit. Be very careful! Don’t!
35. It is important to count declarer’s tricks as the play progresses. If you find yourself on lead and can see that declarer has enough tricks in three suits to make the contract, shift to the fourth suit. Some chance is better than no chance.
36. When dummy tables, add declarer’s likely point count to dummy’s known point count.
The bidding has gone 1NT-3NT. Partner leads and dummy has 10 HCP. Say the opponents are playing a 15-17 notrump range. Assume declarer has the middle count, 16, and proceed from there. The opponents have 26 HCP, give or take 1 point, leaving you and partner with 14. You know how many you have, so it is easy enough to figure out how many partner has. Do it!
37. When defending a suit contract, there are two main techniques declarer uses to garner extra tricks: (1) setting up a long suit in dummy, (2) ruffing losers in the short hand (usually the dummy.) If dummy comes down with a long and a short suit and you have the long suit bottled up, lead trumps because the long suit is not usable. If it appears that the long suit is usable, play an attacking defense going for outside tricks quickly. If the dummy comes down balanced, declarer has no place to get rid of losers and will eventually lose them, therefore you and partner should adopt a passive defense. Avoid breaking new suits if possible. Let them have what they have coming. Sit back and wait for your tricks. Your day will come.
38. The best time to lead a short suit is with trump control. A-x-(x) or K-x-x are great trump holdings to lead from shortness. However, if ruffing will cost you a trump trick, leads from shortness with trump holdings such as J-10-x-x, Q-J-9-x or K-Q-9-x are counter productive.
39. When signaling encouragement with equal spot cards, signal with the higher or highest equal.
With A-9-8-7, signal encouragement with the 9 (which denies the 10). If you lazily signal with the 8, you are denying the 9! Some partners actually watch stuff like that.
40. When giving partner a ruff, the card you lead is suit preference telling partner which suit to return after the ruff.
The return of a relatively high spot card asks for a return in the higher ranking of the two remaining suits. A return of your lowest card asks for a return in the lower ranking of the two remaining suits. The return of a middle card is designed to drive partner crazy. It actually means you have no preference.