More Card Play: Developing Tricks in No Trumps

The Next Step lesson modules have been designed to build on the Online School Curriculum. They include some Quick Tips to help you focus on the lesson topic. Then you can play and review the lesson hands.

If you have more time to spare, you can also complete the first Card Play lesson.

Quick Tips

  • It’s only the absolute winners that should be counted first as definite tricks

  • Subtract the number of definite winners from the number of tricks required, and this is the number of tricks to be developed

  • Don’t count tricks that will be promoted later, because you must lose the lead in order to promote anything (and they’re not winners NOW)

  • The number of times you absolutely must lose the lead (can’t be avoided) for promotion to work will depend on which top honours you hold:

  • If ♦️KQJxx, you need to lose the lead once, to the ♦️A

  • If ♦️QJ10xx, you need to lose the lead twice, to the ♦️A and the ♦️K

  • If ♦️J109xx, you need to lose the lead three times, to the ♦️A, ♦️K and ♦️Q

  • When developing tricks through length - you have more cards of the suit than the opponents - the way the suit divides against you is relevant

  • with seven cards of a suit, the six cards against you will divide 4-2 more often than 3-3

  • with eight cards of a suit, the five cards against you will divide 3-2 exactly 67.8% of the time. ie ” 5-6-7-8”, ie “5” cards will divide 3-2 against you 67.8…% of the time! (Easy way to remember this; got it?)

  • with nine cards of a suit, the four cards against you will divide 3-1 more often than 2-2


This week’s hand:

What move would you make next?
Tip: It’s Hand 1 of the play hands in this lesson, and I have reviewed it in Review 1, above.

Play it first, then look at the review, and then the conversation about how to think about the play, below, with David & GeO.

David Appleton.jpg

David Appleton

The way to think about this hand
Plan B (from outer space) is choosing what to test, and in what order. Diamonds having failed us (by breaking 4-1, and therefore not providing five tricks), we should test the suit in which we will not lose the lead if unsuccessful.
Hence, the club suit. However, if that does not work, what then?
That leaves only the Heart finesse, but we should realise that we will need to be in dummy for that.
Hence, we must test the clubs by cashing the ♣AQ from hand, and then the ♣K in dummy. Although this feels an unnatural way to play the suit, we can return with the A♥️ if clubs work. When they don't, we simply try the heart finesse.
NB: If we accidentally cashed the club suit the wrong way, and found that our right hand opponent had both the ♦️J and ♣J, we can cash the ♦️K then exit in spades to endplay our left hand opponent.

GeO Tislevoll.jpeg

GeO Tislevoll

The way to think about this hand
If diamonds are 3-2 it’s a walk in the park and only a matter of overtrick(s). 
When we cash the diamonds and they are 4-1, we need our ninth trick from clubs, or a successful heart finesse. It is a common situation; we need one extra trick for the contract and have more than one chance. In which order should we try them? 
Taking the heart finesse will lead to immediate failure if it loses and the spades are 5-3. If we do that, it will be sad to find out clubs were 3-3 and we could have won the contract.
We want to combine those two chances. The tip is always to try the suit which can break first, before taking a finesse in situations like this. If the suit doesn't break, we still have the chance that the finesse works. However, there is an entry issue. To take the heart finesse we need to be in dummy. The normal club play would be to start with the ♣K, cash the honor(s) from the short holding first, then cash ♣AQ so we can enjoy the fourth one if it splits 3-3. But if we do, we have no entry to dummy any more and can't finesse hearts. So, we should start ♣AQ followed by a club to the ♣K. If clubs split 3-3, we still have an entry to South to cash the fourth club and can claim our contract. If clubs are not giving the needed trick, we are in the right hand when we find that the clubs are not friendly, and can (finally) try the heart finesse.  


Joan Butts

Summing Up:

Both David’s and GeO’s explanations, and being able to “get into their minds”, so to speak, shows us why it takes SO long to be able to formulate a Plan B or a Plan C when we are only able to consider a Plan A at first. Inexperienced players fail simply because they didn’t know what else to do!
If we put together a Plan A only, we would wonder at the end of the hand, why we failed to make.

If we had a Plan B, and switched to that, but failed to allow an entry for the heart finesse, we would be very disappointed, and still wonder why we didn’t make.

The main thing that David’s and Geo’s wonderful explanations show is that being flexible in our thinking and knowing HOW to formulate a number of plans takes time. And also don’t take a finesse early when we have better options to try first.

So my suggestion is “Plan B and Plan C will eventually come, but only if you keep trying!”

Related Workbook

My Managing the Play Workbook has more related lessons on card play. It is also a great gift for your bridge partner.

Test your knowledge

The quiz below may not work properly on some mobile devices. If you are having trouble using it, please click here to open the quiz in its own window.