Suit Combinations
getting the most from your cards | ||||||||||||||||||||||

When you haven't been playing long, declaring a contract can be a confusing and scary experience. There are a lot of things to consider. To make it easier, you should probably start by looking at each suit individually—the total number of tricks you take is the sum of the number in each suit (counting ruffs as trump tricks). Therefore, the best way to start improving your play is to try to take more tricks in each suit. Looked at like this, you will see four suit combinations to play. To simplify things, we start by assuming we can lead to each trick from whichever hand we want to, and then once we have looked at all the suits in this way we consider the more practical problems of how to deal with constraints like having to lead from the hand that won the previous trick [ - which cards might take your tricks
- the cards in the opponents' hands
- how these might be divided
- how you can take advantage of favourable positions
- Play the ace and hope that he is forced to play the king under it, when your queen will take the next trick.
- Try to play the queen at some stage in the trick after the person with the king has already played (a small card). To do this you usually lead from the hand without the queen and then play the queen if second hand doesn't play the king.
- Work out which hands the line succeeds against.
- Estimate how likely these hands are.
^{n} possible layouts. These are mostly approximately equally likely, so just count how many of the 2^{n} layouts your line succeeds against.
In our example line (a) succeeds whenever the king is singleton. This is just two hands (singleton in the North hand and singleton in the South hand). Meanwhile, line (b) succeeds when the king is in the North hand. This occurs in 2 ^{8} of the layouts (once the king is placed in the North hand the remaining 8 cards can be distrbuted in any way between the two hands). Line (b) (called a finesse) is therefore significantly better than line (a).
Now lets look at a more complicated example:
- Cash the ace and king and hope the queen falls.
- Finesse the ten (then the jack).
- Cash the ace then finesse the ten (then finesse the jack).
- Run the jack (then the ten)
- Cash the king then run the jack (i.e. lead it and play low from East if North plays low)
- Queen doubleton in either hand: 8 out of 32 possibilities
- Queen in the South hand: 16 out of 32 possibilities ... except that if South has all five outstanding cards his queen will beat the nine on the last trick! so only 15 out of 32 possibilities.
- Queen in the South hand (and not to 5) or singleton queen in the North hand: 15 + 1 = 16 possibilities.
- Queen in the North hand and not to 5: 15 possibilities
- Singleton queen in the South hand or queen in the North hand and not to 4 or 5 (you can now only finesse once): 12 possibilities
Safety plays In the previous two examples, there were only two possible numbers of tricks we could sensibly win, so we simply needed to work out which line gives us the best chance of taking the larger number. However, in real-life situations the number of tricks we take may vary by a lot, and the best chance of taking one number of tricks may be a different line from the best chance of taking another number of tricks. Consider the following example:
Toby is assuming IMPs or rubber bridge, where making your contract is all-important – Ed]). What this means is that whenever you are looking at a suit combination you should ask yourself "how many tricks do I need to win in this suit?". If the answer is less than the number of tricks you might be able to win, you should perhaps look for a safety play.
Here are some examples of suit combinations where safety plays can be used—see if you can find them:
When you've decided how to play, click here for the answers. In the next article, I'll explain what to do once you have decided how many tricks you have in each suit. |