Tips for declarers

Always pause at least 10 seconds before calling a card from dummy. This gives you time to think and it gives RHO time to decide on his play.

Suit: Count losers,  then count winners.  Identify which tricks in which suits you plan to take.
         Focus on one hand as the “master hand” for counting tricks.

      ♣  In a 5-3 or 6-2 fit, it’s usually the long-trump hand.

      ♣  In a 4-4 fit, choose one hand -- usually the stronger hand or the hand that won’t ruff.

Look at each suit and count potential losers, then see if dummy can cover any of them.

If you have more losers than winners, it's often a sign you'll need ruffing tricks. Delay drawing trump.

Suit:  If you need more than one ruff in a 4-4 fit:

Plan your entries so you’re ruffing in just one hand. Avoid taking ruffs in both hands unless you’re setting up a full cross-ruff where you don’t plan to draw trumps.

If you must lose a trick to set up a ruff, expect the defenders to lead trumps. Count your tricks after that.

Suit:  If you plan a cross-ruff:

Cash side-suit winners early so opponents cannot discard those suits as you’re ruffing other suits.

Suit: To deal with a bad trump break:

Stop drawing trumps and work on setting up tricks in other suits. Try to leave at least one high trump in each hand.

If you have an outside trick to lose, lose it now.

If you have solid tricks in an outside suit, run it and let the opponent trump.

Suit: To deal with a forcing defense that shortens your trumps:

Try not to let the opponents reduce your trumps to a length shorter than theirs.

Consider using one or more of these strategies to maintain control:
Refuse to trump. Discard a loser instead.
Stop drawing trump and set up your side suit. Try to leave at least one trump in each hand.
Regain control by using a “forcing offense” – force them to ruff and shorten their trumps.

Notrump:  Count winners and potential winners, then possible losers.

How many tricks can the opponents cash when they get the lead?
Predict which suit the opponents will lead when they get in. 

Notrump:  If you’re short of winners and have too many possible losers:
Good things often happen when you run your long suit first. Watch their discards.

If possible, make your discards in the suit you want them to discard. Try to make it appear that you aren’t looking for extra tricks in that suit.

Pay special attention to the defenders' spot cards on the first few tricks – the opening leader’s card and his partner’s if he wins the lead and returns the suit.

Create a mental picture of the layout of that suit – length and honor holdings in each hand.

Identify the “danger hand” if there is one -- the defender whom you want to keep from gaining the lead.

Always look for information from “the count”.

Watch the defenders' plays and try to count how many high-card points each hand has and the number cards they have in the suits you plan to lead.

Use the principle of “empty spaces” to make inferences about suit lengths and honor locations.

Use discovery plays to learn more about the defenders’ distribution and high-card points.

If possible, delay a critical decision until you can get a better picture of the layout of that suit.

Think like a defender. 

Based on the bidding and the play so far, what do they know about your hand? What do they know about each other’s hands?
What suit are they likely to discard or lead if they get the opportunity?

Try to interfere with the defenders’ communication.

1 - Signal the same way they do. If they play standard signals and:

♣  You want them to stop leading that suit – follow with your lowest card. You want the leader to think his partner has played his lowest card, so don’t conceal your low spots.

♣  You want them to continue leading that suit – follow with the highest spot card you can afford. You want the leader to think his partner has lower cards and is signaling for a continuation.

2 - When discarding, try to show a lack of interest in the suit where you hope to establish extra tricks.  Discard the suit you want the opponents to discard.

3 - If possible, conceal low spot cards when you’re winning a trick.

      Example:  LHO leads the 3 and you have AK5 in dummy, Q62 in your hand. You win dummy’s ace and RHO follows with the 4. Drop the 6 from your hand.
    By concealing your 2, your RHO won’t know if his partner has led from a 4-card or 5-card suit and your LHO won’t know if his partner’s 4 is an encouraging signal.

4 - On a defender’s lead, if you have a choice of cards that will win the trick:

♣  If you want to encourage them to lead that suit again, play the card you’re known to hold. 

♣  If you want to discourage them from leading that suit again, win cheaply. 

      Example:  After LHO leads the 2 and RHO plays the Queen (2, 3, Q):
    If you hold AK10, win the Ace (the card you’re known to hold, as RHO would win the Ace if he had it). You want LHO to lead the suit again. Give him a reason to believe his partner might have the King or the 10.
    If you hold AKx, win the King. You want them to know you have AK. If LHO started with Jxxxx, he’ll be hesitant to lead the suit again because he doesn’t know who holds the 10.