Lesson 1: Winners & Losers

A winner is a sure trick that can be taken without the opponents getting the lead. Count winners by first looking at those in your own hand, focusing on one suit at a time, and then check dummy's winners. 
Don’t count tricks that need to be developed later – it’s the immediate winners that you should consider now.

It’s natural to be anxious about losing the lead, but if you don't have enough trick for the contract, you may need to give up the lead to develop extra tricks. If so, do it early, before you lose control in other suits.  

Tips For Taking Tricks in No Trumps
• Take your tricks if you have enough to make your contract. 
• Develop the tricks you need before taking winners in other suits. 
• Find the suit where you have most cards, and work on that first.
• Watch your entries to be sure you can reach the hand you need to be in, to lead to, or take, tricks.

Counting Losers
In suit contracts (not no trumps), focus first on losers, and then on winners. A loser is a trick that the defenders will win when they gain the lead. Count losers from declarer’s hand to start with. Look at which aces, kings, and queens are missing in each suit, then check dummy to see if they can cover any of those losers. If there are shortages, these will reduce losers, since you can trump. 

The Plan Making a plan is everything. When you're declarer, and you see dummy for the first time, think of A, B, C 

Plan  A; Assess your assets. (Count your sure winners, and decide how many tricks need to be developed)

Plan B; Browse the checklist for developing extra tricks. In no trumps, this means (a) Promotion, (b) Length, (c) the Finesse. In suit contracts, these three are available plus two more (d) Using the Trump Suit to reduce losers and develop side suits, and (e) Discarding Losers on Winners. 

Plan C; Consider the order of play. Do you have entries to reach your winners? Should you draw trumps first? In which hand should you take certain tricks?