In playing contracts in no trump and with a trump suit, I suggest that you count your winners and take your tricks if you can count the number of tricks that you need to make your contract.
Unfortunately, we do not always have hands that have all of necessary winners "off the top." In fact, it is more likely that we will have to give up the lead in order to make our contract.
Let's look at some ways you can make your contract when you do not have the necessary tricks "off the top."
Promotion is one way to get extra tricks, but we must give up the lead in order to accomplish this goal. When you let the opponents have the lead, remember one thing: They want to hurt you.
Let's say you have Q43 of spades and dummy has J107. How many winners can you promote?
What if you have K75 of spades and dummy has Q43? How many winners can you promote?
In both cases, the answer is one.
If you have K7 of spades and dummy has QJ3, how many tricks can you promote?
Two tricks is the answer.
How about if you have K10 of spades and dummy has QJ63? In this case, the answer is three tricks.
Another way to get extra tricks in no trump and suit contracts is by using length.
When setting up tricks by using length, consider the following in your plan: entries, losing the lead, and playing high cards from the short side first.
In no trump, you must do your work early; that is, immediately play the suits where you must lose the lead in order to build tricks. If you wait until the end, the opponents will have all winners in their hands and you will not be able to set up your tricks.
One other way to get extra tricks is using a finesse. We are happy to see high cards in our hand because they are a source of tricks.
Sometimes high cards are outright winners - like aces. Kings that are backed up by the ace are also winners.
Sometimes you have several touching high cards that can be promoted, like the king, queen, and jack all in the same suit.
But sometimes you have a high card that isn't an outright winner and isn't backed up by any touching high cards. You still might be able to turn that card into a winner, but it takes finesse, with skillful handling of the situation.
For example, you have the 5 and 4 of spades; dummy has the A and Q of spades. If you play the 4 and put up dummy's Q, you might win the trick if your LHO (left-hand opponent) has the K.
Or, what if you have the 6 and 2 of spades and dummy has the K and 3 of spades? If you lead your 2 to the dummy's K and the LHO has the A, you will take a trick. These two plays are called finesses.
Dr. Kathie Walsh, an ABTA teacher of the year, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club. kbwalsh@road runner.com