Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to make a contract when it appears you have too many losers

Can you make 4 spades here?




Opening lead KD

I had this hand in a club game several years ago. After I made four spades, my opponent, a lady who was an experienced, accomplished player, asked what they did wrong since I was the only one to make four spades. I told her that as the cards lay it could not be beaten if it's played correctly. Although this seemed an easy hand to me, it was clear that to the majority of players in that game, it was not.

When you are playing in a no trump contract, the first thing you do is count your winners and then try to figure out where you’re going to get the tricks you need to make your contract.

In a suit contract, on the other hand, the first thing you do is to count your losers. If you have too many losers to make your contract, you have to figure out where you’re going to be able to get rid of a loser before your opponents take it. Here it looks as if you'll lose one card in each suit.  How can you lose only three tricks, making 4?  You should be able to see it immediately.

Give up?  Win the first trick with the ace of diamonds and force out the Ace of spades because you must keep control of the lead after you lose the ace of spades.  Do whatever you need to draw trump. 

After you lose the ace of spades, you then lose the diamond.  It still looks like you're going to lose a club and a heart.

You start with the clubs.  Play the king, then lead low to dummy. Play low from dummy.  They will get in and lead a heart, which you win.  Then you play to dummy's ace of clubs.  If clubs split 3-3, you can throw your losing heart in your hand on the last club, allowing you to trump the third heart still on the board.  If clubs don't split 3-3, you have to lose a heart in addition to the three you’ve already lost.

The lesson here is to count your losers, 4, which is one short of the 3 tricks you can lose and still make your contract, and then visualize the best way to get rid of one of those losers, allowing you to take an extra trick with this hand at the first trick. The four clubs on the board and three in your hand should shout at you that if they split 3-3, that’s your ticket home.
 

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