Main Page - Lesson Deals - Lessons Previous - Next Contract Bridge LESSON 20Trump Play techniques

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BR 20.1 - What to do with a trump suit

Lesson 12 dealt with handling a trump suit. How to draw the enemy's losing trumps in order to maximise the number of trumps left in your and Dummy's hand for other purposes.
So what can we do with this established ruffing power ?

1. Ruff (usually in Dummy) to gain extra tricks

2. Control a weak side suit

3. Ruff to develop a long or strong side suit

4. Provide needed entries, usually to Dummy's hand
These four techniques are discussed in the following Chapters. We also look at the equally important aspect of when NOT to ruff.

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BR 20.2 - Ruffing to gain extra Tricks

To gain extra tricks through ruffing you need

1. Cards of a side suit in (usually) Declarer's hand

2. opposite a void in that side suit in (usually) Dummy

3. Dummy must hold an equal number or less trumps than in Declarer's hand

4. In exceptional circumstance you are void in a side suit in both hands.
This is usually towards the end of the Game when you throw in the Opponents for an end play, placing them in a potential ruff and sluff position (as shown in Lesson 17.6).
In such a case you try to force the Opponent to lead the suit, giving you the opportunity to ruff in one hand and discard a loser in the other.
We have seen in Lesson 12 that ruffing in the long trump suited hand will win the trick, but it will not gain an extra trick. The trick was there already anyway.
All you achieve by ruffing in the long trump suited hand (usually Declarer's) is weaken the control you have over the game. (The only exceptions being the cross ruff and the Dummy reversal.)

The main question in most cases is whether to ruff before or after drawing the enemy trumps. In many cases drawing the enemy trumps first will deplete Dummy too of trumps, with none left at the end to ruff.
In such cases ruff first, then draw the enemy trumps.
In other cases, when you plan to ruff only once in Dummy, you can afford to draw one or two rounds of trumps first before executing the ruff.
When you have the luxury of lots of trumps in Dummy then it is usually best to draw trumps first before embarking on the ruff (s).

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Example 1
Declarer is in a 4♠ contract.
North leads the King of Clubs which wins the trick. Then, seeing the singleton Diamond in Dummy, North cleverly leads a small trump at trick 2.

 Declarer ♠ - A K J 9 4 ♥ - A Q 6 ♦ - A 5 4 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - Q 10 3 ♥ - K 9 8 4 ♦ - 9 ♣ - Q 10 9 6 3

Declarer wins the trump lead in his hand, then plays the Ace of Diamond, followed by a small Diamond ruffed in Dummy.
Dummy leads a small Heart back to Declarer's Ace and Declarer then leads his last small Diamond, which is ruffed by Dummy's last remaining trump. Dummy then leads another Heart to Declarer's Queen, after which Declarer can finally draw the remaining enemy trumps.

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Example 2
Declarer is in a 4♠ contract.
North leads the King of Clubs and wins. Seeing the abundance of trumps in Dummy (drawing them would be futile), North switches to a small Heart at trick 2. Declarer wins with the Ace.

 Declarer ♠ - A K J 9 4 ♥ - A Q 6 ♦ - A 5 4 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - Q 10 8 3 ♥ - K 9 8 ♦ - 9 ♣ - Q 10 9 6 3

In this case Declarer can combine drawing trumps with ruffs in Dummy.
At trick 3 he plays the Diamond Ace, followed by a small Diamond ruffed in Dummy. Dummy then leads the trump 8, overtaken with Declarer's Jack.

 Declarer ♠ - A K 9 4 ♥ - Q 6 ♦ - 5 ♣ - 7 Dummy ♠ - Q 10 ♥ - K 9 ♦ - ♣ - Q 10 9 6

Declarer now leads his last remaining small Diamond for Dummy's second ruff (with the Spade 10). Dummy then leads his Spade Queen, which is overtaken by Declarer's Ace. This brings Declarer safely back on lead to draw the last enemy trump.

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Example 3
Declarer is in a 4♠ contract.
North leads the King of Diamonds, which wins the trick as Declarer holds up his Ace. North then leads his trump Ace, followed by a small trump, won in Declarer's hand. .

 Declarer ♠ - K Q J 9 4 ♥ - A 7 6 ♦ - A 5 4 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - 10 8 3 ♥ - K 8 4 2 ♦ - 9 6 ♣ - A K 10 6

Declarer, at trick 4, leads his Diamond Ace, then a small Diamond to Dummy's last remaining trump.

 Declarer ♠ - K Q J ♥ - A 7 6 ♦ - A 5 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - 10 ♥ - K 8 4 2 ♦ - 9 ♣ - A K 10 6

Dummy now leads a small Heart to Declarer's Ace, followed by Declarer drawing the last enemy trump.

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BR 20.3 - Controlling a weak side suit with trumps

Controlling a weak side suit by ruffing may not establish an extra trick when the ruff is done in the long trump suited hand, but it prevents Opponents making extra tricks in it.

Example 4
Declarer is in a 4♠ contract.
North leads the King of Diamonds, then the Ace, followed by a small Diamond to South's Queen.

 Declarer ♠ - A Q J 10 4 ♥ - A Q 6 ♦ - 5 4 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - K 7 3 ♥ - K 9 8 4 ♦ - 9 8 3 ♣ - A 10 9

Declarer wins the third Diamond trick in his hand with a ruff, stopping the enemy's Diamond run.
The trump would always have made a trick anyway, but its purpose in this situation is to prevent losing an other trick, instead of winning an extra one.
Declarer can now proceed with drawing trumps.

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BR 20.4 - Ruffing to develop a long or strong Side suit

Example 5
Declarer is in a 4♠ contract.
North leads the King of Diamonds, then, seeing that Dummy is now void in Diamonds, leads the trump Ace followed by a small trump.

 Declarer ♠ - K Q J 10 9 4 ♥ - A 7 3 ♦ - 5 3 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - 7 3 ♥ - K 6 4 2 ♦ - 9 ♣ - A K 10 9 8 3

Declarer wins the second trump trick with the King, then draws the remaining enemy trump with his Spade Queen (discarding a small Heart in Dummy).

 Declarer ♠ - J 10 9 ♥ - A 7 3 ♦ - 5 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - ♥ - K 6 4 ♦ - ♣ - A K 10 9 8 3

Declarer now leads a small Club to Dummy's Ace. Dummy wins, then plays the Club King, both Opponents following suit, followed by a small Club which is ruffed by Declarer. All enemy Clubs are now drawn.
Declarer now leads a small Heart to Dummy's King. Dummy then plays his three Club winners on which Declarer discard his last Diamond and two Hearts.

 Declarer ♠ - J 10 ♥ - A 7 3 ♦ - 5 ♣ - Dummy ♠ - ♥ - K 6 4 ♦ - ♣ - 10 9 8

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BR 20.5 - Using Dummy's trump (s) as Entry

Example 6
Declarer is in a 4♠ contract.
North leads the King of Diamonds, then, seeing that Dummy is now void in Diamonds, leads the trump Ace followed by a small trump.

 Declarer ♠ - K Q J 10 4 ♥ - A K 3 ♦ - 7 5 3 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - 9 7 3 ♥ - 6 4 2 ♦ - 9 ♣ - A K 10 9 8 3

This example is similar as the previous one (Example 5), but there is one vital difference. Dummy has no side suit entry (the Heart King is now in Declarer's hand).
Declarer's Game is won or lost in the second trick. Dummy's Spade 9 can be the vital entry to Dummy's hand once the Club suit has been established. But only provided the Declarer keeps his Spade 4, his only trump card lower than the 9 !
Therefore on the second trick Declarer plays his Spade 10 under North's trump Ace, then wins North's trump lead at trick 3 with his King.

 Declarer ♠ - Q J 4 ♥ - A K 3 ♦ - 7 5 ♣ - 7 2 Dummy ♠ - 9 ♥ - 6 4 2 ♦ - ♣ - A K 10 9 8 3

Declarer must draw the last enemy trump (otherwise they will ruff the 4th Club lead from Dummy), but first he must establish Dummy's Clubs.
Declarer, at trick 4, therefore leads a small Club to Dummy's Ace. Dummy then leads his Club King, followed by a small Club ruffed high by Declarer with the Jack (to prevent an over ruff and also to keep his trump 4!). All enemy Clubs are now drawn.

 Declarer ♠ - Q 4 ♥ - A K 3 ♦ - 7 5 ♣ - Dummy ♠ - 9 ♥ - 6 4 2 ♦ - ♣ - 10 9 8

Declarer now leads his Spade 4 to Dummy's 9, which draws the last enemy trump and at the same time provides the vital entry to Dummy's established Club winners.

 Fundamental Strategy The contract in this example (6) will only succeed if both the trumps and the Clubs are divided 3-2 between the two Opponents. If either suit splits 4-1 or worse the contract can not be made.This highlights the fundamental strategy in card play technique which is : If your contract appears easy to make, ask yourself : "What can go wrong ?"Then try to guard against that event. This usually involves a safety play which sometimes may be at the expense of an over trick. If on the other hand your contract looks to be very difficult to make ask yourself : "With which card distribution of the Opponents will I be able to make this contract ?"Then play according to that scenario.

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BR 20.6 - When NOT to ruff : Loser on Loser play

In some situations it is to your advantage not to ruff. In such cases you invariably drop a loser of one suit onto a loser in an other suit.
This generally occurs in three different scenarios.

1. When, by reducing your trump length through ruffing, you may lose trump control

2. When by not ruffing you may develop a winner in the suit

3. When you are in danger of being over ruffed

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Example 7 (Not losing trump control)
Declarer is in a 1♦ contract.
North leads the King of Hearts, then the Ace, followed by the Heart Queen.

What do you do at trick 3 ?
If you ruff the trick you will have only three trumps left in your hand. If Opponents trumps break 4-2, which is most likely, you will lose trump control and never be able to set up winners in the Club suit. .

 Declarer ♦ - K Q J 4 ♠ - A K 6 ♥ - 8 2 ♣ - Q 8 7 2 Dummy ♦ - 10 9 5 ♠ - 9 7 3 ♥ - 9 5 4 ♣ - K J 10 3

Do therefore a loser on loser play and discard you small Spade loser on the third Heart trick.

 Declarer ♦ - K Q J 4 ♠ - A K ♥ - ♣ - Q 8 7 2 Dummy ♦ - 10 9 5 ♠ - 9 7 3 ♥ - ♣ - K J 10 3

Now if Opponents continue with a 4th Heart lead you can ruff it in Dummy with the 10, and the 4 card trump holding in your own hand remains intact.
In essence what you have done is transfering your Spade loser to become a Heart loser instead.

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Example 8 (Establishing an extra side suit winner)
Declarer is in a 4♠ contract.
North leads a small Heart. Dummy plays low and South wins with the King.
At trick 2 South leads another small Heart. What do you do ?

 Declarer ♠ - K Q J 9 4 ♥ - 10 ♦ - A Q 7 5 ♣ - 8 7 2 Dummy ♠ - A 10 2 ♥ - Q 7 4 3 ♦ - K J 2 ♣ - A 6 3

If you ruff the trick you gain nothing as North will then play low of course.
Instead discard a Club loser in your hand and let North win the trick with his Ace.

 Declarer ♠ - K Q J 9 4 ♥ - ♦ - A Q 7 5 ♣ - 8 7 Dummy ♠ - A 10 2 ♥ - Q 7 ♦ - K J 2 ♣ - A 6 3

Dummy's Heart Queen has now become a winner. After drawing the enemy trumps, ending up in Dummy, you can lead the Heart Queen and discard the second Club loser in your hand.
You would always have made your contract, but this way you make 11 tricks instead of 10. A winning board in any duplicate competition.

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Example 9 (Avoiding being over ruffed)
Declarer (West) is in a 4♥ contract, after North openend with a weak two bid of 2♠.
North leads the King of Spades followed by the Queen, his Partner signalling a doubleton (playing high - low first the 8 then the 2).
At trick 3 North leads his Spade Ace. What should you play in Dummy ?

 Declarer ♥ - A K Q J 7 3 ♠ - 10 6 3 ♦ - A 9 4 ♣ - 6 Dummy ♥ - 6 4 2 ♠ - 9 7 ♦ - K 8 3 ♣ - A J 8 5 4

With only small trumps in Dummy, South is sure to be able to over ruff.
Discard therefore a small Diamond in Dummy's hand, and let North win the trick with his Ace.
If he leads it once more, you can ruff it high in your own hand.

 Declarer ♥ - A K Q J 7 3 ♠ - ♦ - A 9 4 ♣ - 6 Dummy ♥ - 6 4 2 ♠ - ♦ - K 8 ♣ - A J 8 5 4

Whatever North now leads, you win the trick. Now first draw two rounds of trumps, then play two rounds of Diamonds (winning the second trick in your hand with the Ace) and ruff you 3rd Diamond in Dummy with his last remaining trump.
After that return to Declarer's hand to draw the last enemy trump.

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BR 20.7 - Deals 69 to 72

Deals 69 to 72 are examples of play as outlined in this lesson.

BR 20.8 - Quiz 20 - Answers - Review

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