Managing No Trump Play

NB: This lesson is an extension of an earlier Card Play lesson on Developing Tricks in No Trumps. Here's the video from that lesson for you to review. 

 

LESSON NOTES

Managing No Trump Play

When you make your plan for developing extra tricks in no trumps, the biggest hurdle for newer players is to realise that the plan needs to be flexible, and that you might have to go from Plan A to Plan B, and sometimes you run out of plans entirely!
Your first plan will be to use either Promotion, Length or the Finesse (or maybe a combination of these), and try to develop tricks in your longest suit combinations, but what if you find that a suit breaks badly and the tricks you hoped for are not there? or if your finesse fails?  Now you need to know what to do next, and being flexible is the key. 

1.(More on) Promotion 
When you don't have enough sure tricks for your contract, promotion is an excellent source of extra tricks. It doesn't depend on  which opponent has the outstanding high cards. It doesn't depend either on how the cards are divided in the opponents' hands. The main thing to remember with promotion is that you MUST let the opponents gain the lead each time you force out one of the opponents' high cards. Sometimes that's easy, and sometimes you need patience. 

Dummy    Declarer
♥KQJ10       ♥ 8654  Here you lose one trick, and gain three. 

Dummy    Declarer
♥ J109       ♥ 8654 Here you lose three tricks, and gain one. 

Be careful too that some suits only look as though there's an opportunity for promotion:

Dummy    Declarer
♥Q32       ♥ J54  Without the ♥10 there is no way to promote a trick. This is called a "frozen suit". This means that neither side can play this suit to advantage. If declarer plays the suit first, you may not develop any tricks, but if the defenders do, they will give declarer one trick.  

2. (More on) Length
You'll only make extra tricks through length if the suits divide reasonably against you, so watch the play to each trick carefully, and notice this. Calculate and  recalculate every time you see four cards played. Nobody knows from the outset how suits are going to divide against them... you have to start the play to see that. 
Dummy    Declarer
♦ 8652      ♦AK73

If you're counting on three tricks from this combination, you'll need the suit to divide 3-2,  (67.8% of the time), so start playing the suit. Play the ♦A & ♦K and play another one. You will lose one trick but make three.

                                      Dummy
                                     ♦8652
              West                                      East
              ♦Q109                                   ♦ J4
                                     Declarer
                                     ♦AK73 

But if the layout were this: 
                                     Dummy
                                     ♦8652
              West                                      East
              ♦QJ109                                   ♦ 4
                                     Declarer
                                     ♦AK73
You'd play the ♦A & ♦K but East would show out on the second trick, and you would realise that there won't be a trick to develop through length after all, because the suit broke 4-1. You'd have to move to another plan to make an extra trick.

3. (More on) the Finesse
Sometimes card combinations require more than one finesse to make the required tricks.

                                          Dummy
                                           ♥ KQ2
                      West                                 East
                      ♥AJ54                                ♥1097
                                          Declarer
                                           ♥ 863

Here, you are able to promote one trick by leading the ♥K or ♥Q to force out the ♥A. But, if you need two tricks, you need the ♥A to be favourably located and "onside" i.e. in the West hand. 
Start by leading a low heart towards dummy. If West holds the ♥A, as they do in this combination, and if they play it, you have made two tricks. 
If West plays a low card, and you play the ♥K or ♥Q, you have won one trick. Now you need to come back to declarer's hand and repeat the finesse by leading towards the remaining high card. Whether or not West plays the ♥A you'll win two tricks in the suit. 
If, in another  combination, East held the ♥A, you would only ever make one trick.  


Resources

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