LESSON 7: Planning a Suit Contract

### Suit Contracts

The factors to keep in mind when you are planning the play at a suit contract are the number of tricks that you need to make your contract, the number of winners at your disposal, and the number of losers that appear on the horizon. No great mathematical skill is needed to arrive at these totals; all you need to be able to do is count up to thirteen. For example:

 DUMMY ♠ Q 10 8 7 5 4 ♥ K 6 2 ♦ Q J 9 ♣ A DECLARER ♠ A K J 9 6 3 2 ♥ A 7 3 ♦ K 3 ♣ K

The contract is six spades, so you need twelve tricks. You count your winners: seven spade tricks, two top hearts, and one top club.

Two diamond tricks will be available after the ace has been driven out, so the needed total of twelve is well within reach. On the losing side, the ace of diamonds is a sure trick for the enemy, and there is also a potential loser in hearts. You cannot afford to play off the ace and king of hearts at an early stage, else when the opponents win the diamond ace they will cash a heart trick and set the contract; you must build twelve winners before the defenders can take two tricks. Therefore, lead diamonds until the opponents take their ace. You will then regain the lead on the next trick and cash your winners to make your small slam.

### Using Trumps

The distinguishing feature of suit contracts (as opposed to no-trump contracts) is the presence of a trump suit. Trumps are versatile as well as powerful, and there are various ways of using them to secure your contract. Some of these are:

STOPPING THE OPPONENTS

If the defenders hold all the high cards in a particular suit, they are likely to have visions of glory and try to cash enough top-card winners to set the contract. As soon as either you or the dummy run out of the suit, however, you can insert a trump and call a halt to their fun.

RUFFING LOSERS

Trumps can also be used to take care of what would otherwise be losers. For example:

 DUMMY ♠ 8 ♥ Q J 6 4 3 ♦ 7 4 3 ♣ K 4 3 2 DECLARER ♠ A 4 2 ♥ A K 10 8 7 ♦ 8 5 2 ♣ A 6

The contract is four hearts. West leads the king of diamonds, and you count eight top winners (five in hearts, two in clubs, and one in spades) and five potential losers (three in diamonds and two in spades). West continues the attack in diamonds with the ace and queen, winning the first three tricks. He then switches to a club, and you must take the rest of the tricks to make your contract. If you mechanically lead out all your trumps and top cards, your two low spades will be losers and you will fall two tricks short of your contract. The proper procedure is to cash the spade ace and ruff a spade in dummy, enter your hand with a trump and ruff your other low spade. Now it is quite acceptable to play off your trumps and top-card winners, for you have no more potential losers and will take the rest of the tricks to bring home your game.

 DUMMY ♠ 8 ♥ A Q 9 8 7 ♦ 6 5 3 ♣ 8 6 4 2 SOUTH ♠ A K Q ♥ K 6 5 3 2 ♦ A 8 ♣ 7 5 3

Once again the contract is four hearts, and West leads the king of clubs and follows with the ace and queen. This time, you can count nine top winners and four potential losers. East plays the nine and ten of clubs on the first two tricks and discards a diamond on the third round of clubs, whereupon West continues with the jack of clubs, East discards another diamond, and you ruff with the two of hearts. You cannot afford to lose any more tricks, and there is cause for grave concern in the diamond suit where a potential loser is leering at you. Can that annoying eight of diamonds be ruffed in dummy? It seems unlikely, because dummy has three cards in diamonds, but ingenuity and foresight will save the contract. Cash the ace, king, and queen of spades, and discard two of dummy's diamonds. Now play the ace of diamonds and ruff your losing diamond. Although trumps are indeed powerful, ruffing losers in a hand which is long in trumps will usually not produce any extra tricks. For example:

 DUMMY ♠ 9 7 6 ♥ 8 4 2 ♦ Q J 5 ♣ A J 6 3 DECLARER ♠ J 4 3 ♥ A 7 5 ♦ A K 8 6 3 2 ♣ 4

You are playing a diamond contract, and can count eight top tricks (six diamonds and two aces). Playing a club to the ace and ruffing a club with your two of diamonds will not add to your total, because the two of diamonds is a length winner anyway. In the preceding examples, extra tricks were created because you ruffed with trumps which otherwise would have fallen uselessly under other trumps when the suit was led.

CROSSRUFFS

When the right situation arises, you can ruff back and forth from one hand to the other (a crossruff) . This can produce a surprisingly large number of tricks:

 DUMMY ♠ J 8 7 6 5 ♥ 7 ♦ A 9 8 7 6 ♣ 4 3 DECLARER ♠ A K Q 10 9 ♥ A 8 6 4 2 ♦ 4 ♣ 6 5

You are declarer at four spades. West cashes two top club tricks and switches to a trump. You can count only seven top winners, and something must be done about the potential red-suit losers. Win the trump lead in either hand, play the ace of hearts and ruff a heart, play the ace of diamonds and ruff a diamond, ruff a heart, ruff a diamond, and keep on going in this fashion—a most monotonous one for the defenders, but a highly successful one for you. When the crossfire of ruffs is finished, you will have taken eleven tricks and made your contract with an overtrick. All your trumps are high, so there is no danger of an overruff by an opponent; the crossruff must suceed. If instead you erroneously lead out the five top trumps, you will go down three! The tipoff to a crossruff situation is that you have lots of trumps in both hands and a short suit in each.

### Ruffing vs. Drawing Trumps

Unfortunately for the peace and well-being of declarer, the defenders also have some trumps at their disposal and may make thorough nuisances of themselves by ruffing declarer's good tricks. Frequently, however, sufficient precautions will avert this disaster.

 DUMMY ♠ 8 6 3 ♥ Q 8 5 ♦ K 8 6 4 ♣ A 7 3 DECLARER ♠ 7 5 ♥ A K 4 ♦ A Q J 7 5 ♣ K Q 2

Your contract is five diamonds. West cashes the king and ace of spades and continues with the queen, which you ruff. You can count eleven top-card winners, but a modicum of care is necessary. If you should happen to lead out the top hearts or clubs on the theory that it does not matter in what order you cash your high cards, an opponent may ruff and defeat the contract.

To prevent such a calamity, you should immediately play trumps until the opponents run out (draw trumps). Cash the ace of diamonds, counting the enemy trumps as they appear. You began with five and dummy started with four; both opponents follow suit to the ace of diamonds, making the current total eleven. Since there are thirteen cards in each suit, the defenders have two trumps left. Continue with the trump queen; West follows suit and East discards. A twelfth trump has been captured, but there is still one left. Cash the jack of diamonds, completing the drawing of trumps. You can now play your high cards in the side suits and make your contract. The complete deal:

 DUMMY ♠ 8 6 3 ♥ Q 8 5 ♦ K 8 6 4 ♣ A 7 3 WEST ♠ A K Q 9 4 ♥ 6 ♦ 10 9 2 ♣ J 9 6 5 EAST ♠ J 10 2 ♥ J 10 9 7 3 2 ♦ 3 ♣ 10 8 4 DECLARER ♠ 7 5 ♥ A K 4 ♦ A Q J 7 5 ♣ K Q 2

If you play two rounds of hearts before drawing trumps, West will ruff gleefully and set the contract.

It is often a good idea to draw trumps as soon as possible. However, drawing trumps must be postponed when the ruffing of losers takes priority:

 DUMMY ♠ 8 ♥ 7 5 ♦ 4 3 2 ♣ — WEST ♠ K J 9 ♥ A 3 ♦ 5 ♣ — EAST ♠ 10 7 ♥ 2 ♦ 10 9 8 ♣ — DECLARER ♠ A 2 ♥ K Q J 4 ♦ — ♣ —

Hearts are trumps and declarer is on lead. If you play the king of trumps, West will win with the ace and return a trump, removing dummy's supply, and you will later lose a spade trick. Therefore, drawing trumps must be postponed; cash the ace of spades and ruff a spade.

Drawing trumps may also have to be delayed because of entry considerations:

 DUMMY ♠ Q 10 ♥ 7 6 5 4 ♦ 9 7 3 2 ♣ 10 5 4 DECLARER ♠ A K J 8 7 6 ♥ A Q J ♦ A K ♣ A K

Declarer's hand is the kind every bridge player dreams about, but it will become a nightmare unless the play is properly planned. First, let us suppose that you are declarer at six spades and West leads a club. You can count twelve winners (six spades, two hearts after the king is dislodged, two diamonds, and two clubs) and only one potential loser—the king of hearts. Therefore, draw trumps quickly before the opponents can ruff anything and play the ace and queen of hearts. If an opponent wins the king, your hand is high; if not, cash the rest of your winners and concede the last trick. Some heart finesses might land an overtrick, but it is silly to risk the game and the slam bonus for an extra 30 points. Now suppose that your contract is seven spades and a club is led. You must take all the tricks, and the only reasonable hope of avoiding a heart loser is to finesse. If you play trumps until the enemy runs out, the lead will be in your hand and you will be unable to finesse. The only entries to dummy are in trumps, and they must be used judiciously if you are to have the best chance of making your grand slam. After you win the club lead, play a spade to the ten and finesse the queen of hearts. If this wins, reenter dummy with the queen of spades and finesse the heart jack. Then, before doing anything else, draw the remaining trumps; don't take more chances than necessary. It is true that the first or second round of hearts might be ruffed; but if this happens you couldn't have made your contract anyway.

Drawing trumps must also be postponed when you need to take a quick discard to dispose of a threatening loser:

 DUMMY ♠ 6 3 ♥ K J 4 2 ♦ K Q 3 ♣ J 6 3 2 DECLARER ♠ A 7 ♥ A Q 5 ♦ A 10 ♣ K Q 10 7 5 4

Your contract is six clubs and West leads the king of spades. A count of winners shows that plenty of tricks are available; you have five club tricks (after the ace is driven out), three top diamonds, four top hearts, and the spade ace—thirteen in all. Visions of glory may run rampant at this point, but what about the losers? The ace of clubs cannot be avoided, and there is also a potential loser in spades. If you win the ace of spades and play trumps, the opponents will take their ace of clubs and cash the setting trick in spades before you can take all those winners. Thus, the urgent spade situation must be attended to first. Win the ace of spades, cash the ace of diamonds, play a diamond to dummy's king, and lead the queen of diamonds discarding your low spade. Now drive out the ace of trumps. A spade return won't hurt in the least; you will ruff in your hand, draw the remaining trumps, and easily take the rest of the tricks to make your small slam. If an opponent ruffs a diamond (unlikely, but possible), you could not have made your slam anyway; and the risk must be taken because you will surely be set if you try to draw trumps.

### Ruffing out a Suit

Sometimes more work is involved in discarding your losers, but the basic principle is the same; you try to rid yourself of losers in a suit so that you can ruff in and prevent the opponents from winning tricks. For example:

 DUMMY ♠ K 10 5 ♥ Q J 2 ♦ A 7 ♣ A 8 6 4 2 DECLARER ♠ A Q J 6 3 2 ♥ 10 7 4 ♦ 9 8 ♣ K 5

Your contract is four spades and West leads the king of hearts. You can count nine top winners (six spades, one diamond, and two clubs), and a tenth trick will be available in hearts after the ace and king are played. Things are looking up; what about the losers? You have two heart losers and a potential diamond loser—only three in all. What a simple hand!

Unfortunately, West follows his king of hearts with the ace and leads a third heart. East trumps this trick with the four of spades! East switches to a diamond, and you must take the rest of the tricks to make your contract. Matters are no longer so simple; the enemy ruff has added an extra loser to the picture and removed the possibility of gaining the tenth trick in hearts. The only hope is to set up a length winner in clubs on which you can discard your losing diamond, and you cannot afford to draw all the trumps because you need dummy's king and ten of spades as entries. Here is how this relatively complicated maneuver works:

Win the ace of diamonds and play the five of spades to your ace. Be sure to count the trumps as you go along; let us say that both opponents follow suit. You started with nine trumps, East ruffed once, and two trumps were played on this trick, a total of twelve. So there is but one trump outstanding in enemy hands. Make a note of this and turn your full attention to the club suit; cash the king and play a club to dummy's ace. The opponents follow suit to both tricks, and the contract is now assured. Lead another club from dummy; East discards a diamond and you ruff in your hand, West playing a club. How many clubs are left? Your side started with seven, the opponents both followed to the ace and king (accounting for four more), and West followed to the last trick, so twelve clubs have been played and there is still one left. Play a low spade to dummy's ten and lead a low club and ruff in your hand, extracting the defenders' last club. Now play a spade to dummy's king, lead the established club, and discard your losing diamond. The enemy cards are no longer secret, because you have counted; you know that the opponents are out of clubs (and trumps) and dummy's club must win the trick. By ruffing out the enemy's clubs, you have succeeded in setting up a club winner in dummy and getting rid of your loser in diamonds. The complete deal:

 DUMMY ♠ K 10 5 ♥ Q J 2 ♦ A 7 ♣ A 8 6 4 2 WEST ♠ 7 ♥ A K 8 6 3 ♦ K 6 2 ♣ J 9 7 3 EAST ♠ 9 8 4 ♥ 9 5 ♦ Q J 10 5 4 3 ♣ Q 10 DECLARER ♠ A Q J 6 3 2 ♥ 10 7 4 ♦ 9 8 ♣ K 5

### Preventing an Overruff

Having your tricks ruffed or overruffed by the defenders is most painful and should be avoided whenever possible. Let's return to the previous deal for a moment and suppose that the play had gone slightly differently. Once again, West leads the heart king against your four-spade contract, follows with the ace, and gives his partner a ruff on the third round of the suit. This is regrettable, but there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. East shifts to diamonds, and you win with dummy's ace. Pursuing the plan of ruffing out the clubs, you play a spade to your ace, cash the club king, and play a club to the ace; both opponents follow. However, when you now play a third club, East follows suit. Ruff with the jack of spades!

 DUMMY ♠ K 10 5 ♥ Q J 2 ♦ A 7 ♣ A 8 6 4 2 WEST ♠ 8 7 ♥ A K 8 6 3 ♦ K 5 4 2 ♣ 7 3 EAST ♠ 9 4 ♥ 9 5 ♦ Q J 10 6 3 ♣ Q J 10 9 DECLARER ♠ A Q J 6 3 2 ♥ 10 7 4 ♦ 9 8 ♣ K 5

If you ruff with a low spot, West will overruff and defeat the contract. It is pointless to take this risk, because you don't need the jack of spades to draw trumps; dummy's king and ten will handle the job very adequately. When you ruff with the jack, West cannot overruff and discards a heart. Now play a trump to the ten, extracting the last of the enemy trumps, ruff a club, return to dummy with the king of spades and discard your diamond on the club.

As you can see, declarer play offers considerable intrigue and fascination; rarely are two situations exactly the same. Success depends on planning your strategy in advance and counting the cards in important suits as they are played. You will find that you improve with practice; if things go a bit poorly at first, remember that no one ever became a competent declarer overnight!

### Capsule Summary: Suit Contracts

I. Count:
1. The number of tricks that you need.
2. The number of winners at your disposal.
3. The number of potential losers.
WHEN YOU CAN TAKE THE NUMBER OF TRICKS THAT YOU NEED TO MAKE YOUR CONTRACT, DO SO. DON'T RISK YOUR CONTRACT TO PLAY FOR OVERTRICKS.

II. Trumps may be used to:
1. Stop the opponents from cashing winners.
2. Ruff losers.
3. Crossruff an entire hand.
4. Ruff out a suit and establish the long cards as winners.

III. 1. Draw trumps when you don't need them for any other urgent purpose and wish to keep the opponents from ruffing your winners.
2. Don't draw trumps when:
A. You need them to ruff your losers.
B. You need to use them as entries.
C. You need to take a quick discard before losing the lead.

### REVIEW QUIZ

(1)

 DUMMY ♠ Q J 5 ♥ 8 6 3 ♦ 10 8 ♣ A K J 6 5 DECLARER ♠ A K 4 3 2 ♥ A 7 2 ♦ 6 4 ♣ Q 3 2

Your contract is four spades. West cashes the king and ace of diamonds and shifts to the king of hearts. Plan the play.

(2)

 DUMMY ♠ A 8 6 ♥ Q 7 ♦ K 8 6 4 3 ♣ 9 6 3 DECLARER ♠ K 3 2 ♥ A K 5 ♦ A Q 9 7 2 ♣ 7 4

Your contract is five diamonds. West cashes the king and ace of clubs and continues with the club queen. Plan the play.

(3)

 DUMMY ♠ A K J 9 ♥ A 6 5 3 ♦ 9 8 5 4 ♣ 3 DECLARER ♠ Q 10 8 7 ♥ 2 ♦ 7 6 3 2 ♣ A 7 6 4

Your contract is two spades. West leads the ace, king, queen, and jack of diamonds, winning the first four tricks; East follows to the first round and discards three low hearts on the next three tricks. West shifts to the king of hearts; you win with dummy's ace and East follows with the jack. Plan the play.

(4)

 DUMMY ♠ A Q 2 ♥ K 4 2 ♦ K ♣ 8 7 6 4 3 2 DECLARER ♠ K J 10 6 3 ♥ A J 3 ♦ 8 4 2 ♣ Q 5

Your contract is four spades. West cashes the king and ace of clubs. (East following suit to both tricks), wins the ace of diamonds, and shifts to a trump. Plan the play.

(5)

 DUMMY ♠ A 9 6 4 ♥ K 8 6 3 ♦ 2 ♣ K J 7 2 DECLARER ♠ Q J 10 7 3 ♥ A Q 7 ♦ A 3 ♣ A Q 5

(6)

 DUMMY ♠ J 4 3 ♥ A 2 ♦ A K 8 3 ♣ 7 6 4 2 DECLARER ♠ A K Q 10 9 ♥ 7 5 4 3 ♦ 6 2 ♣ A K

(7)

 DUMMY ♠ A 6 3 ♥ Q 10 4 3 ♦ A K 6 ♣ J 10 7 DECLARER ♠ Q 2 ♥ K J 8 6 5 ♦ 5 ♣ A K Q 4 3

(8)

 DUMMY ♠ A Q 8 ♥ K 10 4 2 ♦ A 4 2 ♣ K 3 2 DECLARER ♠ 6 ♥ A Q J 6 5 3 ♦ K 5 3 ♣ 8 7 5

Your contract is four hearts and West leads the queen of clubs. You hopefully put up dummy's king (a doubtful play, but we can't all be perfect). East wins with the ace and returns a club, and West cashes the jack and ten. West shifts to the six of diamonds. How do you play from this point?

(9)

 DUMMY ♠ A K J ♥ Q 8 6 4 2 ♦ A 3 2 ♣ 7 4 DECLARER ♠ Q 10 9 4 3 2 ♥ K 3 ♦ 8 6 4 ♣ A 5

(10)

 DUMMY ♠ Q 4 3 ♥ 10 7 4 3 ♦ K Q J ♣ A Q 10 DECLARER ♠ A 5 ♥ K Q J 6 5 2 ♦ A 8 ♣ K J 5

Solutions

1. Assuming reasonable divisions in the black suits, you have eleven top winners (five spades, five clubs, and the heart ace). Thus, you can take the rest of the tricks—provided that the opponents do not ruff any of your club winners. Draw trumps at once by playing a low spade to dummy's queen and continuing with the jack. If all follow to both tricks, there is only one trump outstanding, and a trump to your ace will collect it. If one opponent shows out on the second round of trumps, his partner must have begun with four spades, and you will have to continue with the spade ace and king to complete the drawing of trumps (discarding a heart from dummy, not a club winner). After drawing trumps, cash the club queen, play a club to the king, and run the clubs, discarding the losing hearts from your hand.

2. You can count eleven winners (two spades, three hearts, five diamonds, and a club ruff in your hand) and have no immediate losers, so prospects are bright. Ruff the club and draw trumps (two rounds will do if both opponents follow to the first round; three rounds will be necessary if one opponent shows out on the first diamond lead), cash the queen, king, and ace of hearts and discard a spade from dummy, cash two top spades, and win the remainder with dummy's trumps.

3. With only six top tricks (four trumps and two aces), you must seek out a better plan than just playing out your winners, and a crossruff is just what the doctor ordered. Win the ace of hearts, play to the ace of clubs and ruff a club, ruff a heart, ruff a club, and continue ruffing back and forth. This will produce nine tricks (six by ruffing, one spade, and two aces) and you will make your contract with an overtrick.

4. You have only seven sure tricks (five spades and two hearts) and six potential losers (three tricks already lost, two diamonds, and one heart), but dummy's long club suit is bright with promise. Since both opponents have followed to two rounds of clubs and your side began with eight, there is only one club left, and the contract will be cold unless trumps divide five-zero (very unlikely). Win dummy's ace of spades, cash the spade queen, ruff a club with the spade ten to extract the enemy's last club, draw the remaining trumps, enter dummy with the king of hearts and run the established clubs, throwing away your two low diamonds and jack of hearts. The rest are easily yours. The trap is to avoid taking the unnecessary heart finesse or trying to ruff your losing diamonds in dummy.

5. You have thirteen winners (four spades even if one is lost to the king, three hearts, one diamond, four clubs, and one diamond ruff in dummy), and only one possible loser (the king of spades). Therefore, play safe; win the heart with any honor that pleases you and play the ace and another spade. If trumps divide two-two, the rest are yours; if not, you must regain the lead on the next trick and can quickly draw any outstanding trumps. It would be foolish to take the spade finesse, for you do not need it to make your contract; and if West began with just one heart and two or three low spades, East will win the finesse with the spade king and return a heart for West to ruff, sending you down to a most ignominious defeat.

6. You can count only ten winners (five spades, one heart, two diamonds, and two clubs) and have three potential heart losers, so there is work to be done. The only possibility is to ruff two hearts in dummy, which means that you cannot afford to draw trumps. Win the opening lead with the ace of clubs and play the ace and another heart. Suppose the opponents win and return a diamond; win in dummy, play a trump to the nine, ruff a heart, play a club to the king, ruff a heart with the spade jack (which cannot be overruffed), ruff a club, and take the remainder with high trumps.

7. The ace of trumps is a sure loser, so playing low from dummy at the first trick is extremely risky; if East produces the king, you will be set immediately. Instead, put up dummy's spade ace, cash the ace and king of diamonds and discard your losing spade. Now play trumps. Don't take any unnecessary finesses!

8. With only nine winners (six hearts, one spade, and two diamonds) and a potential fourth loser in diamonds, you need a tenth trick from somewhere (and a parking place for the losing diamond). Win the diamond in either hand, draw trumps ending in your hand, and finesse the queen of spades. With a singleton spade in your own hand, the finesse may seem peculiar because you have no spade losers if you play low to the ace, but a count of your winners shows that the finesse is the only chance to make the contract. If it wins, you have your tenth trick; if it loses, you break even by discarding your diamond loser on the ace of spades. What could be better than "Heads I win, tails I break even"?

9. You have four potential losers (one heart, two diamonds, and one club)—one too many. The best chance to make the contract is to set up the heart suit. Win the diamond ace and play a heart to the king. Suppose that West wins the ace, cashes two diamond tricks and returns a club. Win the ace, play a heart to the queen, and ruff a heart with the nine of spades (which cannot be overruffed). If both opponents follow, hearts have divided 3-3 and dummy's hearts are now good; draw trumps ending in dummy, cash a heart and throw your losing club. If an opponent shows out on the third round of hearts, play a spade to the jack, ruff a heart with the ten of spades, draw trumps ending in dummy and throw your losing club on the established heart.

10. With a sure heart loser, you cannot afford to lose a spade. Put up dummy's queen; if it wins, play trumps immediately since you are in no danger. If East covers the queen with the king, win the ace of spades; play the ace, king, and queen of diamonds and discard your spade loser; then play trumps.

If you solved all of these problems correctly this book is probably too easy for you. Six out of ten right is quite good; eight correct is excellent.