Just as there are many variations of safety plays, there are also many variations of endplays. The name is evocative of the timing of the plays. They usually come near the end when the players have few cards left, although some endplays can be executed early in the deal.

The essence of the endplay, however, is that an opponent is forced to play a card that can only be to your advantage. Endplays usually involve the elimination of one or more side suits, taking away from the opponent what are known as “out cards” — cards in a suit that, if played, wouldn’t yield a benefit to the declarer.

Here is a classic endplay situation: 

 You are in 4, playing as South-North. West leads the K. You win the ace and look over your prospects. You have no losers in spades or clubs, just one in hearts (and nowhere to put it because all your suits are the same length) and the situation in diamonds is not so good. You have very poor cards to back up your Q and J. You will almost certainly lose three tricks if you play the suit yourself. Is there any way to get the opponents to play the suit?

Take Away Exit Cards

Follow along now. You win the opening heart lead with the ace and pull trumps in three rounds. Next you cash your club winners to arrive at this position:

Neither opponent has a black card left in his hand. All you have to do is put your 5 on the table and three diamond losers turn into two.

Do you see what happened? Whichever opponent wins the heart trick, he must play a diamond or a heart. If he plays a diamond, you must make at least one diamond trick. That is, if the opponents break diamonds, you hold your losers in the suit to the ace and king. Sketch the diamonds in all four hands out on paper and play it out.

If either opponent decides not to break diamonds, then she must play a heart, with equally good results for you. Remember that you are void in hearts in both hands. So if either opponent plays a heart, you can ruff in one hand and discard a heart from the other, leaving you with only two diamond losers in that hand.

It wouldn’t have worked if you hadn’t taken all the opponents’ “out cards” from them by playing out your clubs after you pulled trumps. It was okay to play four rounds of clubs, but you didn’t want to play four rounds of trumps, because then you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take advantage if an opponent played a heart.

Here is another endplay situation, this time involving trumps.

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