Knowing the fundamentals of bridge will make you a much better player than someone who learns a number of conventions that require more memory and do not occur very often.

To start, you must learn basic bridge bids and basic declarer play tips.

Before you play to the first trick in bridge, you should have a general plan of how you are going to play the hand. Are you going to draw trump and take winners? Crossruff? Set up a long suit? Make a strip and end play?

The following tips are things to consider in making your plan.

1. You must remember the bidding if the opponents have bid and draw inferences about their high card strength and distribution from this information; this way you might be able to locate key honor cards.

2. Note the opening lead; ask the opponents what their leads mean. You might be able to draw inferences about honor cards and distribution in this way.

3. Count your losers first. Successful play of a suit contract depends on declarer’s ability to get rid of losers. If you have enough sure winners, consider how to safely play for an overtrick or two.

4. If you have a source of tricks outside the trump suit to use in making your contract, pull trump as soon as possible so the opponents cannot trump your good tricks; however, if you see that you need to ruff some losers before pulling trump, do so immediately.

5. If you plan to play your contract as a crossruff (you have a short suit in your hand and another short suit in the dummy and you have plenty of trump), be sure to cash your side suit winners first.

6. Holding Q32 in hand and J54 in dummy, do not lead the suit yourself, or you will almost always lose three tricks. If the opponents lead the suit for you, you will always get one trick.

7. Lead up to KQ6 or AQT, not away from these holdings. Take advantage of potentially favorable card placement in opponents’ hands (see tips 1 and 2).

Dr. Kathie Walsh, an ABTA teacher of the year, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club. kbwalsh@road