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 41-52 are playing tips.
41. Before playing to the first trick, review the bidding and make sure you remember the opening lead.
Sometimes the opening lead is a small spot card and it is important to know exactly how small. If the opening leader later plays another small card in that suit, you really want to know whether it is a higher or lower card than the original lead. You really do!
42. If one (or both) of your opponents is a passed hand, assume that player has fewer than 12 HCP. If that player turns up with 10 HCP early on, play the partner for any missing queen, king, or ace.
43. There is nothing more important than counting your sure tricks before you begin to play.
At notrump count your sure tricks outside of the suit you plan to establish. This tells you how many tricks you need in your main suit and then play accordingly.
44. As declarer, when you can to take a trick with one of two equal honors, take the trick with the higher equal. It is far more deceptive.
Say you are playing notrump with the KQx. If a low card is led and RHO plays the jack, assuming you wish to take the trick, take it with the king. Do the same with the A-Q-J. If a low card is led and the 10 comes up on your right, take it with the queen, not the jack! If you take tricks with lower equals, you might as well be playing with your cards face up on the table!
Major exception: With A-K-x-(x) at notrump take the first trick with the king. If you win with the ace, it is too suspect. If your only stopper is the ace, why aren’t you holding up?
45. As declarer, when possible, withhold any spot card lower than the one that has been led or lower than the one played to your right.
If the opponents are playing standard signals, this tip is sure to screw them up. Say the 3 is led against notrump and dummy has the A-K-5 and you have the Q-6-2. You play the king from dummy and third hand plays the 4. If you play the 6, concealing the deuce, consider the confusion you have caused: fourth hand won’t know if partner has led from a four- or five-card suit (can’t see the deuce) and the opening leader won’t know if partner is signaling with something like Q-4-2. (can’t see the deuce). If you play the deuce at trick one, East knows that West has led from a four-card suit and West knows that partner’s 4 is discouraging. For shame.
46. When leading from the dummy to take a finesse with a number of equal honors in your hand, finesse with the higher or highest equal.
Say you have the A-Q-J-10 in your hand and x-x in the dummy. When you lead low from dummy and second hand plays low, play the queen. You give away too much information if you play the 10. If the 10 loses to the king, second hand will know you still have the Q-J. If the queen loses to the king, second hand won’t know you have the J-10. If the 10 wins, and second hand has the king, second hand knows you still have the Q-J. However, if the queen wins, second hand can’t be sure you have the J-10.
47. When you have all the tricks but one and you are playing in a trump contract, play off every single one of your trump cards before you play your other suits. Keep the suit you have the loser in until the bitter end. Make them suffer!
Remember, the most you can lose is the last trick.
48. At a suit contract holding A-x-x facing x-x-x and the suit is led, it is usually right to win the second round of the suit.
If one of the opponents has a doubleton, you cut the communications between the two hands. It is also right to duck when dummy has x-x and you have A-x-x-(x). Ducking allows you to keep control of the suit. Do the same when dummy has A-x-x-(x) and you have x-x. Take the second trick with the ace. This assumes you have no place to put these losers.
49. Play the cards you are known to hold from the lead and third hand’s play.
Say the queen is led and dummy has x-x-x-x. You, the declarer, have the K-J doubleton. When third hand plays the ace, the king and jack are equals; however, third hand knows you have the king from the lead of the queen, but doesn’t know you have the jack. If you play the king under the ace, the jack remains a mystery card. The opening leader also knows you have the king from partner’s play of the ace. Get rid of that king! Remember, you are not costing yourself a trick when you make these plays because you have an equal to the card you are unloading in either your hand or dummy. Say the jack is led, dummy has 9-x-x-x, and you have Q-10 doubleton. When third hand plays the king, drop the queen. Why? The queen is a card they both know you hold. Third hand knows it from the lead of the jack and the opening leader knows it from the play of the king. You might as well show them your hand if you don’t play that queen!
50. When fortunate enough to have a powerful trump suit and being forced to ruff, tend not to ruff with your lowest trump. That tiny trump might be your only way to get to dummy.
51. When drawing trumps try to keep a flexible entry position after trumps are drawn.
Ideally you want to be able to enter dummy in the trump suit and also be able to enter your hand with a trump. Say you have the K-Q-J-4-3-2 and dummy has the A-10-5. If you play the ace and king, you have an entry to dummy with the 10 and you can get back to your hand by overtaking the 10. If you play the K-Q, you block the trump suit. You can get to dummy with the ace, but you can’t get back to your hand with a trump.
52. If you have a number of equal honors and you want second hand to cover the first honor, lead your highest equal honor. If you don’t want second hand to cover, lead your second highest equal honor. It works!
Say you have the Q-J-10-9-x of trump and dummy has the K-x-x. If there is a danger of a ruff, lead the jack. If second hand has the ace, he may duck thinking partner has the queen and the ruff may be lost. Say dummy has the A-Q-x-x without a side suit entry and you have J-10 doubleton. If you need three tricks in the suit, lead the 10. Second hand, holding the king, is apt to play low thinking partner may have the jack. You can then lead to the queen for three tricks. If second hand covers, the suit is blocked and you can take only two tricks.
Bonus Tips 53-58
#53 When dummy is expected to have a long strong suit at a suit contract and there are two unbid suits, lead from the stronger. However, if one of the suits is headed by the ace, lead from the other. If the two unbid suits look like: K-J-x-x and K-x-x-x, lead from the K-J-x-x suit. If the two suits are A-J-x-x and Q-x-x-x, lead from the queen suit.
#54 If you can see that there are no possible defensive tricks coming from the side suits, give declarer a ruff and a sluff. It often promotes a defensive trump trick.
#55 When decarer bids two suits, particularly if the first suit is a major, a ‘tentative count’ is available. Using that tentative count along with partner’s opening lead often allows you to get a complete count on declarer’s hand at trick one!
Declarer is presumed to have five hearts and four diamonds. If partner’s lead (2, say) gives you a count in that suit, you will have a count on the hand at trick one!
#56 Defenders take tricks with their lower or lowest equal. If you can take a trick with a jack or the queen, take it with the jack. Taking it with the queen denies the jack and can screw partner up.
#57 After partner has described his hand and you know what the final contract should be, bid it! The one who knows, goes! Say partner opens 1NT (15-17) and you have 18 HCP points, balanced. There are least 33 points between the two hands so bid 6NT! If leaping so high scares you, go to a mirror and say 6NT out loud. Do it!
#58 Best Bonus tip of all: DON’T BID THE SAME VALUES TWICE. DON’T PLAY WITH SOMEONE YOU DON’T LIKE. DON’T SCREAM AT YOUR PARTNER AND DON’T FORGET TO USE THESE TIPS UNLESS YOU WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE STRUGGLING TO GET TO FIRST BASE….AMEN