More Card Play: Developing Tricks in Suits

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

  • Having a trump suit allows you to make extra tricks by trumping, usually in the short hand (Dummy)

  • Remember that you don’t make EXTRA tricks by trumping in the long trump hand

  • How many trumps there are in the short hand (dummy) also makes a difference to the number of extra tricks you make (whether there are three, four or even five trumps)

  • Another excellent use of trumps is to establish the length of a side suit by trumping it

  • Remember if you do this, you will need an entry back to the hand you’re working on, each time you need to trump again

  • Now you must notice how the suit are breaking against you

  • After you’ve done this, you ALSO need an entry to get back to enjoy the established long card/s

  • The trump suit also offers ways to cross from declarer to dummy, and you don’t have to follow the rule of taking the winner in the shorter holding first when it’s trumps

This week’s hand:

We are focusing on card play this week, so rather than giving our panel a hand to discuss bidding, they have been asked to watch this game and then explain what the next step is.

What move would you make next? Thanks to Eddie Kantar for giving me permission to use the hand here.

David Appleton.jpg

David Appleton

Firstly, we plan, generally, to draw trumps and play on spades. That would almost be the end of it, but dummy holds the ♥️Q. We can, therefore, plan to combine chances by cashing ♠AK first, and if the ♠Q does not appear, then take the heart finesse to dispose of a spade.
As a side note, we should plan to draw trumps keeping entries into both hands, so possibly with the ♣A and ♣J, and the ♣10, if necessary.


Joan Butts

Summing up: Geo’s point about the bidding (making a “jump shot” to 6♣), thus missing any potential 7♣ is correct. David didn’t comment (but probably felt the same way). Both David and GeO give a really clear explanation about combining chances when playing a hand, not putting all your eggs in one basket! When you can’t afford to give up the lead, and you have two finesse suits, one missing the Q and the other the K, and you need to pick the right one to make your contract, don’t try either!

GeO Tislevoll.jpeg

GeO Tislevoll

The practical 6♣ bid was good enough on this hand, landing the pair in a fine contract. However, South’s bid (6♣) shut out an unlimited partner who can never raise to 7♣ with slightly more (better spades) when there may be a cold grand slam. Never mind, the task now is to bring home twelve tricks. The diamond lead puts pressure on us because if they get in, they can immediately beat the contract with a diamond trick.

We have two obvious chances: 1) Spade finesse, and if it works, you will often make thirteen tricks:2) Heart finesse which if it goes well gives us a discard of a spade on the ♥️A, and they will only get one diamond trick.

Any of those two finesse options give a 50% chance. However, taking one of them is fatal if it loses and the other finesse would have worked. The better chance, though, is to combine chances! You can play for the ♠Q to drop or the heart finesse. You must try for the drop first, as if it fails (the ♠Q doesn’t drop) you don’t let them in to beat the contract with a diamond trick and can try your second chance.

Draw the necessary rounds of trumps (two or three) and cash ♠AK. If the ♠Q drops you can claim, and if it doesn’t, take the heart finesse as your last chance. This adds up to 50% for the heart finesse (the last chance to try) plus the added chance that the ♠Q drops – a significant extra chance – in total much more than just trying one of the finesses.

There are no guarantees, and if you go down and could have won by guessing which finesse to take, you have played for the better chance. Playing for the best chance is what will pay off in the long run.

NB: If you are finessing with this spade suit, remember to play the ♠A first so you are not giving East a trick for a possible singleton ♠Q. The spade suit seen in isolation (eight cards missing the ♠Q) is best played by ♠A followed by a finesse, but in this context (this contract), the combined chances will make you win the slam more often than guessing which finesse to take. 

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.