Planning the Play
(Page of 5)

Note:  I thought this was going to be published in the intermediate forum.

(If it can be moved, that would be great)

The worst habit bridge players have is playing cards before making a plan.

Take a moment, as one always should, and think about how to play this 4 contract.  My style would be to overcall 1.  Planning on reopening with a double if necessary.  Apparently, partner's style is to let me play the hands.  The final contract is very sensible.  West led the A and shifted to a trump.

North
A73
AJ432
Q
AK43
South
QJ5
KQ875
9
10652
W
N
E
S
1
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

Do not play a card until you have a plan!

North
A73
AJ432
Q
AK43
South
QJ5
KQ875
9
10652
W
N
E
S
1
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

Plans start with inventory.  The first step is count immediate winners.  This is how many tricks you are willing to bet your life you can cash before potentially losing the lead.

One spade, five hearts and two clubs = 8

We need two more tricks.  Where might they come from?

Players often muddle counting tricks.  The reason why we count cashing tricks and tricks that can be established separately is twofold:

• Declarer needs to know how many extra tricks he needs.
• The lead will or might be lost in the process.  That has ramifications.

One extra trick is guaranteed in spades.  Two extra tricks cannot be developed unless the defenders are fools.  (Stiff king is possible, but I would not bet on it.)  Even if the spade king is onside, all West needs to do is cover the queen or jack.  The only other place to develop a tricks is in clubs.   Long suits are a good place to set up tricks.  We have eight clubs.  So if the clubs divide 3-2, the fourth round of clubs will be the game going trick.  The club ten can also be scored if the outstanding clubs are divided H / H987.  Cash the ace and king of clubs and lead low towards our ten.

Lets check the math.  What would our losers be?  We lost a diamond.  We are going to lose a spade because there is no place to throw it away, given the mirror distribution.  (Ten trumps and no ruffs!).  We have ten winning tricks and three losing tricks if the clubs behave.

No!

A good plan always considers contingencies.  After taking inventory and sketching out a plan of action, a careful declarer should take things one step further and consider what might go wrong?

There are ten tricks if the clubs behave.  One more consideration before playing a card is whether anything can be done if clubs break badly.

Suppose that either West has QJ98 or East has this holding.  Is there anything that can be done about that?

Hands with mirror distribution frequently lend themselves to strip and throw-ins.  The diamonds are already gone.  The king of spades figures to be with opening bidder on our left. This means we can arrange to lose the third round of spades.  To handle all possible club breaks, one high club needs to be cashed before the throw-in.

Ace of diamonds, win two rounds of trumps, cash a high club.  Return to hand with a trump and play the queen of spades.  Covered (or not).  Cash another spade.  If the clubs break badly, this will be one possibility when you play a third rounds of spades:

West
9
K6
QJ9
North
3
43
K43
East
106
J1087
South
5
Q8
1065
D

In this position, East cannot win the third spade.  He must give up a ruff and sluff.  If West wins the third spade, declarer will duck a club return.  If East follows, the clubs must be 3-2.  If the clubs are 4-1, the ten will win on a low club back, or West is endplayed on the next club if an honor was ducked. This works if East has the four clubs.  Declarer just needs to put up the ten on a low club back or duck the honor.

West
9
K1087
North
3
43
K43
East
106
6
QJ9
South
5
Q8
1065
D

If you develop good thinking habits and follow proper procedures in developing a plan, you can become a fine player.

Do not be discouraged about missteps along the way.  A bad plan is better than no plan.  If you keep working on it, your plans will become better and more complete.  One needs to develop correct thinking processes and it takes time and practice.  But the practice is fun, because after all, this is a game.

This hand came up during play.  I thought when dummy came down that this would be a great lesson hand if I just changed the clubs to 4-1. Most of the time the clubs are 3-2 and everyone makes the game.  But the clubs turned out t be 4-1 and the correct play of cashing one high club early paid off.