Tricks With Trumps

A time to ruff and a time to draw

The Presentation

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The Examples

Using BBO Handviewer

This is simple Internet application that steps through a bridge deal.

It has a small number of settings in 'Options' which should be self-descriptive. At the seminar I tended to use 'Show played cards' and 'Advance card by card' for clarity. Also 'Hand diagram' rather than 'Pictures of cards' – because I'm used to it and that's how deals in appear print (which you'll need to study).

There is a hidden option that allows you follow ('kibitz') a seat, seeing the table from that perspective, just 13 cards and, when play begins, dummy. This is achieved by clicking on the blue 'N', "E', 'S', 'W'. When I showed deals I always pre-selected declarer so we could consider the play problem without seeing how the opposing cards were lying. To return to the four-hand view ('double dummy') click the kibitzed seat again.

There are two additional buttons: 'GIB' (Ginsberg's Intelligent Bridgeplayer) which produces a hand-analysis similar to the one on the hand-records at the club or on the website (when not in kibitz mode). It shows the result each card produces, green means the contract makes ('=' exactly or number of overtricks) and red is undertricks.

Because some of these were taken directly from the match records of the 2016 European Championships, you will have to find them. Those are examples that look like,

RR31 Bd 13. 4= Helness

The link takes you to the scorecard of both rooms in the match, click on the contract that is in the row of the board number and the column of the declarer (I've put those in bold). These match records include a commentary. I suppressed that as a diversion (options: 'Hide chat'/'Show chat') but you can see what was said at the time if you're interested. Lastly there is a 'Navigate' button that allows access to the scorecard and the second room where the deal was played.

Managing trumps and keeping control

  1. RR15 Bd 5. 4= Forrester, ruff or setup winners? Counting tricks essential.

    A complicated deal where there is a choice between taking ruffs and setting up winners. Once the lead (third from an honour) shows there to be three diamond tricks, rather than ruff top clubs and try for dangerous heart ruffs, declarer opts for drawing trumps. That the defence didn't lead a heart simplifies the play.

  2. RR11 Bd 9. 4 Tatarkin, poor effort, failed to see power of force

    Declarer hopelessly loses control of trumps. If you consult GIB you'll see that declarer could still have made his contract even after two top hearts revealed the 4-1 split.

  3. 4-1 USBF Trials SF (from TBW June P27) Pre-session bd 2

    With a spade, a heart and a club to lose declarer couldn't not ruff the second and third spades. The solution I like best is, when declarer draws the last trump with dummy's jack, is to run the 7 if it's not covered (as found in the other semi-final). If this loses to West he is safe as West has no more spades. This is not 100% as it loses the contract when West is say, K109 A92 975 Q1043 but it is very tempting because on that lie, East has a singleton and did not switch to it at trick two.

  4. IBPA 4 with club side suit

    From Australian writer Tim Bourke, declarer loses a club trick while he has a trump in each hand, even though there is still one outstanding. Note is not sufficient to play ace, king and another club because the defence will play a fourth diamond and, after ruffing in one hand, there is no route to the other hand to draw the last trump.

  5. 4X= [based on Norfolk/Suffolk Swiss]

    Simply driving out the top spades is hopeless as the first link shows. Neither is it good enough to discard on one of the hearts; the defence forces with a heart and holds up a round of trumps, when another round of spades is played there is no trump in East to take the force. West, who was down to four trumps, fatally is reduced to three – only one off in this line though.

    1. Play trumps
    2. Retain control

Ruff and Draw

  1. RR6 Bd 19. 6 M Bilde, easy: ruff losers, draw trumps

  2. TBW IYP P15/1 Care with drawing and ruffing

    Declarer has, with the aid of the trump finesse, 11 tricks (1+5+3+2) and needs to take a spade ruff in North. Because declarer has complete control, it is better to duck a spade first, then use the spade ace as and entry to take the heart finesse and ruff a spade after two finesses.

    Note it is best play to take a first round trump finesse – that is, not play the ace first – because that picks up East's Qxxx (remember, dummy's third heart is needed to ruff a spade) though it loses to xxxx (which is four times less likely).

  3. RR31 Bd 4. 4= Gawrys two tricks in hearts or transfer ruff - if so, how?

    In Poland v Monaco both declarers in 4 drew trumps and hoped that West had at least one heart which was successful. They would have gone down had East held both, roughly 25% of the time. They could arranged to transfer the ruff from clubs to hearts. However, it is fatal to touch trumps. I stepped through the play but something like it occurred in the Senior event.

    RRS-18 Bd 4. 4-1 Sabbatini.

    The defence begin with three clubs and declarer pitches a heart then, rather than play a heart from hand (as most did after this start) declarer crossed to the spade king. He now played a heart, ducking the ace. West could have defeated the contract by playing another trump but he played a heart however declarer played a trump! He was insensitive to the danger of getting back to hand to draw the last spade,

  4. 6 IPBA June 2016 P10 #809 - Dummy reversals

    Another from Tim Bourke: declarer sees that trumps 2-2 or 3-1 allows the draw-and-ruff of a club in North. But when West shows out, it's not possible to play for a fourth-round ruff. Better instead to ruff two diamonds (high). He therefore tests trumps with the ace, when the unfavourable split shows up, he can use trump re-entries to dummy to take the second diamond ruff and draw the final trump. Making 4 in North plus two ruffs - the same as 5 in South plus one ruff.

    I introduced a variation when North's trumps are not quite so strong; it's essential to cross to North on the risky entry first (a club while there's a trump out) before East can discard that suit.

    1. Good trumps Pre-session bd 1

    2. Slightly worse, same approach

    3. Slightly worse, right approach

Draw and Ruff

  1. RR16 Bd 27. 4= Brink, classic 5-5 pattern with only 7 trump tricks, baby endplay

  2. RR31 Bd 13. 4= Helness count tricks! Draw and claim (5+3+2)

  3. 4 Woodbridge 2016-06-20 Bd.2 (5-5 fit)

    Declarer needlessly risked being overruffed in club, she should have tested trumps after the first ruff. When they were 2-1 she could draw the second and claim, making 5+2Ruff+1+1.

Suit establishment

  1. RR29 Bd 9. 7= Helness simple suit establishment

    There are no trick-gaining ruffs so declarer draws trumps then starts on diamonds, ruffing the third. If that suit is 3-3 – or either opponent has Qx – has two extra tricks, that is the diamonds not ruffed (other than the cashed ace-king). If a defender has Qxxx and ruffing diamonds produces only one trick (the fifth round) bringing his total only to 12, declarer has to hope the club finesse works.

  2. RR35 Bd 6. 7= Drijver, suit establishment and take ruffs. Pre-session bd 3

    Declarer starts with 6+2Ruff+1+2+1 = 12. A thirteenth can come from the heart finesse or setting up a club. North's spades as so good – after the lead he has only one lower than the opponent's best – that he can afford to ruff in both hands and draw trumps (so, by our definition, this is not a crossruff but "suit establishment during ruff-and-draw).

    To operate this plan of taking three club ruffs and two (necessary) diamond ruffs he must start on clubs first – because there are more of them to take. This is very safe, failing only to minor-suit voids or East's singleton club.

  3. 4+2 I&K 23rd June. Why so many 12 tricks?

    This is matchpoints where taking overtricks is important. You can see how taking 13 tricks in 4 would have scored from the slide.

    1. What happened
    2. What should have happened

  4. 6 Tatarkin, which suit to set up? How?

    Another deal with competing plans. Tatarkin was a bit unlucky to have the second round of spades overruffed but that was really a play for all the tricks (perhaps he was in matchpoint mode!). His luck returned when he found the clubs 3-3.

    He could have avoided this by taking high ruffs. Had he taken two unnecessary high ruffs the spades would have been 4-3 and now set up, he could have then finessed North for the 9 for his overtrick. The ruff-high plan pretty much guarantees 6 consistent with South's lead, save obscure layouts.

    Since giving the talk I've discovered that Dennis Bilde (Denmark) played this way.

  5. Actual
  6. Alternative line


  1. RR34 Bd 31. 5 Brink, very simple cross-ruff, cashing side-suits first

  2. 4 from Champ Teams Final

    South needs to make eight trump tricks, that means four ruffs in the South hand (plus North's four) or three ruffs in North (+5 South). Eight tricks means at most one round of trumps – which the defence will surely play. Clearly it is easier to ruff in South as losing the lead many times to set up ruffs in North gives the defence opportunities to lead trumps.

    Four ruffs in South requires four entries to North: one from the opening lead, one from the club king (ace onside), one from spade ace, one from club ruff. That all passes off happily (and much as expected from the auction) and unusually, South gets to cash a winner at the end.

  3. RR36 Bd 30. 6-1 Lauria, fatal round of trumps.

    See East Anglian Daily Times article for a little more background.

  4. RR29 Bd 14. 6= Zorlu Crossruff, suit est. or take ruffs?

    Declarer muddles the play, caught between setting up spades and a crossruff; had the A not been ruffed down in three, he would have been defeated. It is not absolutely clear what the best line is but on the principles we have discussed, a clear plan would be to win the club lead in West and play a top heart.

    If the holder of the A doesn't have a trump declarer can play a crossruff. If the K is taken and a trump continued, declarer wins K and sets about spades. He now has five entries, K, A, J and two diamond ruffs. That is enough to ruff four spades and return to East to cash the established winners.

    True, North can make a nuisance of himself by ducking the K but that is (a) a very hard to find defence and (b) no worse – because he can still ruff the spades down in three – than the play he adopted at the table.

  5. 6 Woodbridge 2016-06-20 Bd.8 (5-5 fit)

    This is another deal where it is vital to count the tricks and entries. Declarer needs nine tricks from trumps as he has just three aces outside. That means taking four ruffs in one hand without losing the lead (because the defence might be able to play another trump). Clearly four ruffs are more easily taken in diamond so those ruffs must be started first.

    1. What happened

    2. Better timing

Mixed strategies

  1. Cash and thrash – 6 from 2015 ECL Suffolk v C&H Bd 32

    1. As played

    2. Better line

  2. Cash and thrash – 5 Garden Cities Regional 2016 2/11

    1. As played

    2. Better line

  3. Playing bad contracts – RR11 Bd 7. 3X Gold, use trumps wisely

    After South's aggressive entry into the auction after strong no-trump (2 = 5 Major and 4 minor), North bravely rescues his partner and found their 8-card fit. Rather than lead an ace (or away from one) East began with a club. It is often a good idea for the defence to draw trumps and prevent the outgunned side scrambling tricks on a partial crossruff.

    Here the K lead is still good enough for down three and +800. Declare wins and next plays a suit in which he can do little harm, East wins and clears trumps: declarer is left with one in each hand which he can, in draw-and-ruff fashion, score at any time – but he should not rush to do so. North leads towards the K and then, when spades do not break (as expected, NS were doubled in 2) he discards rather than ruffs. Suddenly poor Tatarkin is in a bind, only a low heart preserves the third undertrick, when he plays the ace, he creates a tricks for North's queen, 3X is down only two, -500 but +3 IMPs.

  4. RR8 Bd 26. 3 Bakhshi, mix of strategies; threaten ruffs, switch to suit establishment